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STRATFOR Mullah Nailed

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Geopolitical Diary: Examining Mullah Dadullah's Death

Stratfor: Morning Intelligence Brief - May 14, 2007


Afghan intelligence announced on Sunday that top Taliban military

commander Mullah Dadullah was killed early Saturday during a battle

with an Afghan-NATO force in Helmand province. The 40-year-old

Taliban leader had emerged as the most important operational

commander on which Mullah Mohammad Omar could rely in pressing

ahead with the jihadist insurgency in the country. Under his

leadership, the Pashtun jihadist movement adopted the tactic of

suicide bombings, and he represented the faction close to al Qaeda


Dadullah's killing is the first major success for Kabul and NATO

against the Pashtun jihadists since the resurgence of the Taliban

shortly after the ouster of their regime in 2001. Until now,

fighters and low- to mid-level leaders had been killed; this is the

first time a major Taliban figure has been eliminated. He is known

to have been a member of the 10-man Taliban leadership council. His

death also will have serious implications for al Qaeda's plans

involving the Taliban .


Media reports based on information released by Afghan and NATO

officials suggest Dadullah was killed during one of the many

battles that have taken place between Taliban fighters and

coalition troops in southern and eastern Afghanistan over the past

several years. Given the operational security protocols of the

Taliban and the stature of Dadullah, however, the official version

does not add up. In other words, Afghan and NATO forces carried out

the operation to take out Dadullah on the basis of specific human

intelligence regarding his location. It is not likely a matter of

coincidence nor is it probable that Afghan and NATO troops have

been able to enhance their intelligence capabilities on the

jihadists. This leaves only one possibility -- the involvement of a

third party.


Given the close ties between the Taliban and the Pakistani state

and society, it is highly likely that Islamabad is the source of

the intelligence on Dadullah. It should be noted that after several

years of tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with Kabul

claiming that Islamabad was backing the Taliban, the Pakistanis

pledged to cooperate with the Afghans against the Taliban. This

was relayed by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to Afghan President

Hamid Karzai at an April 30 meeting in Turkey, during which they

agreed to share intelligence on militant groups.


Though the Musharraf government's decision to work with Kabul on

containing the Taliban is fueled by its domestic concerns ,

Dadullah's death has certain implications for the domestic

situation in Afghanistan. Though the insurgency will continue, it

has been dealt a significant blow -- and the pace of the Taliban's

advance has likely been dampened. More important, the vacuum

created by Dadullah's death could trigger infighting between

hard-liners linked to al Qaeda and more pragmatic elements.


The Taliban will be worried about how their organizational security

net was penetrated and will be suspicious of many within their own

ranks, which could lead to internal strife. Already those close to

Omar and al Qaeda are concerned about the more pragmatic elements

talking to the Karzai administration. There are signs that such

elements, knowing Kabul would not strike a deal with them unless

they parted ways with Omar and his allies, might have actually

helped in the elimination of Dadullah; many within the movement

actually did not approve of Dadullah's harsh policies.


Former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdus Salam Zaeef, who

represented the Taliban in recent talks with Karzai , reacted to

Dadullah's killing by saying it would lead to more fighting, and

that talks are the only way to bring the violence to an end.

Dadullah's killing also comes a few days after the upper house of

the Afghan legislature approved a bill calling for direct talks

with the Taliban and a halt to NATO operations against jihadists.


Though anti-jihadist operations will continue, negotiations

involving Kabul and Islamabad geared toward further weakening

those loyal to Omar and strengthening pragmatic leaders within the

movement will become increasingly important in the months ahead.

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