The Taliban assassinated a member of the Afghan High Peace Council in a complex ambush in Helmand province today. The Taliban have now assassinated three senior members of the peace council since the end of the summer of 2011.
Malim Shah Wali, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council in Helmand, and two bodyguards were killed after the Taliban attacked his convoy as he traveled in the Gereshk district. The Taliban first detonated a roadside bomb, or IED, and then opened fire on Wali’s vehicle.
Wali was traveling to a security handover ceremony in Gereshk along with Masoud Bakhtawar, Helmand’s deputy provincial governor, when they come under attack. Bakhtawar survived the ambush.
Today’s attack took place just one day after the Taliban killed three British soldiers in an IED attack “whilst on a routine patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province,” the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense noted.
The attacks in Afghanistan took place as President Barack Obama said that the US is “winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al Qaeda core, and we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks.”
Wali is the third senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council to have been assassinated by the Taliban in the last year and a half. In September 2011, a Taliban suicide bomber killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former head of the Afghan High Peace Council and an influential politician. The Taliban suicide bomber, who posed as a peace envoy, hid a bomb in his turban and detonated it as he hugged Rabbani in his home in Kabul.
In May 2012, the Taliban assassinated Arsala Rahmani, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council who had served as a deputy education minister during Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
Taliban’s Mullah Dadullah Front is the likely culprit
While no group has claimed credit for today’s assassination of Wali, the attack was likely executed by the Mullah Dadullah Front, a Taliban subgroup that operates in southern Afghanistan and is close to al Qaeda. The Mullah Dadullah Front claimed credit for the May 2012 assassination of Rahmani.
The Mullah Dadullah Front is a powerful wing of the Taliban in the south that has adopted al Qaeda’s tactics and ideology, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in December 2010. The Mullah Dadullah Front is led by none other than Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who has since been promoted as the Taliban’s top military commander and co-leader of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura. In December 2010, Coalition and Afghan special operations troops captured a senior Mullah Dadullah Front financier and weapons facilitator.
Zakir and other Taliban leaders operate from the Pakistani border city of Chaman in Baluchistan, as the location shields them from US and NATO operations. The Taliban maintain a command and control center in Chaman, but the Pakistani military and intelligence services have refused to move against the Taliban there.
The Mullah Dadullah Front operates largely in the southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan, and is considered the most effective and dangerous Taliban group in the region. The group has been active in attempting to sabotage negotiations between the Afghan government and lower-level Taliban leaders and fighters in the south.
The Taliban subgroup has executed numerous complex attacks, suicide assaults, and assassinations in the region.
Zakir is also responsible for a purge of Taliban leaders who have conducted negotiations with the Afghan government, including Mohammad Ismail, the former Deputy Military Council Chairman for the Taliban’s Quetta Shura.
HPC official dead in Helmand explosion, Pajhwok Afghan News
Helmand high peace council chief killed in Taliban attack, Khaama Press
Helmand High Peace Council Chief Killed in Taliban Attack, TOLOnews