Taliban shadow governor killed?

In a little-reported story from the north-west of Afghanistan – no doubt overshadowed by the car-bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul – villagers in Qayser district used “a machine gun, sticks and stones” to chase away Taliban members, killing, in the process, the shadow-governor for Faryab province.

The militants had tried to abduct local aid workers who were building a well in the Qayar district of Faryab province, the police chief, Khalil Andarabi, said Thursday. link

I visited the district (see my photo above) in February this year, trying to travel as far away from the central provincial authorities in Maimana as possible to see how far the government’s authority extended. It took about 10 hours to drive into the district through what could hardly be called roads. As I wrote at the time:

Over 120,000 people live in the district, but with only 3 health centres, for example, Qaiser district has received relatively little developmental assistance.
Most of the support that the government – provincial or national – has been able to extend to the district has taken the form of security forces to man the border with the restive districts of Badghis province to the west.

Villagers that we spoke to knew a lot about the projects that the PRT had implemented around the district but said that there was still a lot to be done. Abdul Hamid, the deputy police chief of Qaiser district, said that the PRT visit the district “every so often” but that the most prominent development actor in the district was the Chinese company contracted to (re)build the section of the ringroad that passes through.

“We supplied them 70 or 80 police officers to help secure the areas in which they’re working,” he said. The police station in the district centre had itself benefited from the Chinese presence: they are able to use electrical appliances thanks to a generator given to the police by the Chinese.
He was confident, though, in the ability of Afghan security forces in the district. “If the PRT were to leave the province it would make no difference for us. We can secure the district by ourselves.” link (in Norwegian)

The Taliban website has an article from a few days back relating to an attack on Qayser district in which 2 police checkpoints were allegedly dismantled. Everything written in the English-language part of the site is usually overblown, exaggerated, and only mildly grounded in reality or fact. It is entirely possible, though, that Taliban are attempting to expand the northern insurgency from neighbouring Badghis province (where the Taliban have entrenched themselves in Bala Murghab and Ghormach districts) eastwards into Faryab.

This is how the Taliban went about taking control of the north last time round (during the 1990s), and most people – from the governor to members of the Norwegian PRT operating there – agree that attacks from the west remain the principal threat to security.
In a separate development, the latest edition of al-Somood (#25 and the 2-year anniversary edition) was released a couple of days ago. You can download it either on the website itself, or by clicking through the links here.
It includes an editorial commenting on Taliban media units’ operations over the past 2 years, an interview with Mullah Mohammad Rassoul – 44 years old and allegedly one of the founding members of the Taliban, although his name doesn’t come up in the source text that I’m currently co-editing for publication next spring – and another interview with Sheikh Mawlawi Mohammad Fayyaz concerning the Sarpoza prison break.

There’s a 4-page commentary piece on the Paris Conference (entitled “American Occupation and the Paris Conference”), as well as a piece on the use of depleted uranium munitions in Afghanistan (entitled “Where does the uranium go?”).
For a movement on the run, al-Somood is an increasingly sleek production. 56-pages produced monthly in Arabic (often used as a fund-raising prop for donors in the Gulf), and this is only one of several publications allied to the Taliban. ISAF’s own propaganda rag – Seda-ye Azadi (‘The Voice of Freedom’) – has nothing on this.