Taliban Appoint Hardline Battlefield Commanders to Key Afghan Posts

By Reuters
Reuters
Reuters
September 22, 2021 Updated: September 22, 2021

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban terrorist group announced several senior appointments on Tuesday, naming two veteran battlefield commanders from the group’s southern heartlands as deputies in important ministries.

Main Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir will be deputy defense minister, while Sadr Ibrahim was named deputy minister for the interior. Both men had been expected to take major positions but neither was named in the main list of ministers announced this month.

The two were identified in U.N. reports as being among battlefield commanders loyal to the former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour who were pressing the leadership to step up the war against the Western-backed government.

The appointments add to the roster of hardliners in the main group of ministers, which included figures like Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani terrorist network, blamed for a string of attacks on civilian targets.

According to a U.N. Security Council report from June, both Zakir and Sadr commanded significant forces of their own, called mahaz, that usually operated across several provinces.

They were considered so powerful and independent that there were concerns within the leadership that this could stoke tension over the loyalties of certain groups, particularly in the south and southwest of the country.

Zakir, a former detainee in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, was a close associate of late Taliban founder Mullah Omar. He was captured when U.S.-led forces swept through in Afghanistan in 2001 and was incarcerated in Guantanamo until 2007, according to media reports.

Sadr, a former head of the Taliban military commission from the southern province of Helmand, will be deputy to Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Reuters