December 14, 2004

Getting Closer To Omar (Updated)

The London Telegraph reports that Afghani security forces captured a key lieutenant of Mullah Omar and a Taliban commander yesterday after a tip from an inside informant:

The personal security chief for Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has been captured in southern Afghanistan.

The arrest of Toor Mullah Naqibullah Khan as he travelled in a van to Kandahar, gives hope to US and local forces searching for other key Taliban figures and Osama bin Laden.

"We have arrested top Taliban figures Toor Mullah Naqibullah Khan and Mullah Angar on the way between Arghandab and Kandahar," provincial security forces said.

"They were carrying a satellite telephone and some important documents. We are hopeful we will arrest more Taliban figures and we hope that we can arrest their leader Mullah Omar."

Finding a satellite phone on the prisoners is an interesting development. Most of the al-Qaeda hierarchy had given up on satellite technology after American military forces started using it to track the fugitives a few years ago. It either indicates a belief that the US is too focused on Iraq to track Taliban communications, or a desperation in establishing communications with disparate parts of their command that they're willing to risk capture to try it. It's hard to imagine that anyone would believe the former -- even our own Michael Moore crowd would probably laugh at that -- and so I would guess that the Taliban has permanently lost their command and control functions.

The "insider tip" credit may be on the level, or it may just be a tactical bit of disinformation designed to keep the Taliban suspicious of each other while the Afghanis and Americans exploit their technology. In either case, the Taliban appears to have fallen apart, and Omar's capture looks more certain with each new prisoner the Afghanis take.

UPDATE: More information here:

Mullah Naqvi and Mullah Qayum were active in the ousted regime's insurgency and were believed responsible for a series of terror attacks in southern Afghanistan, said Abdullah Laghmani, the intelligence chief in Kandahar province.

Both men were on "most-wanted" lists, Laghmani said. During the Taliban's rule, Naqvi was in charge of security for Mullah Omar's home in Kandahar city, and Qayum served as a military commander in the province, said Abdullah Laghmani, the province's intelligence chief. ...

Laghmani said Naqvi and Qayum were caught Monday night at a home in Kandahar city. Another suspect apprehended in the city earlier in the day, driving a vehicle containing 460 pounds of explosives, allegedly intended for Taliban fighters, led Afghan security forces to the two commanders.

"These two commanders were involved in every terrorist activity in Kandahar province against the government and coalition forces," Laghmani said.

When low-level delivery boys know where to find top insurgency commanders, the organization is either extremely small or very incompetent. I'd say that both are probably true in this case.


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