23 March 2010

New Taliban Deputy: Mullah Abdul Qayim Zakir

As I predicted last month, it appears that Mullah Abdul Qayim Zakir (aka Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul) has been appointed as the Taliban's Deputy Commander. He will replace Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a highly influential leader and close associate of Mullah Omar who was reportedly involved in high-level reconciliation talks with Afghan leaders (some analysts hypothesize this is why he was arrested).

Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai report on their Declassified blog (at Newsweek) that Mullah Omar recently announced the promotion of Abdul Qayim Zakir and Akhtar Mohammed Mansoor as his deputies, according to a reliable source who is a senior Taliban operator. As the Newsweek article mentions, it appears that Zakir is a popular choice among Taliban leadership and members:

"The choice of Zakir, who was released from Guantánamo in late 2007, and who returned to join the Taliban in the field about one year later after being freed by Afghan authorities, is popular with Taliban commanders. Several Taliban commanders have told Newsweek that they wrote letters to Mullah Omar in support of Zakir as the logical replacement for Baradar soon after his deputy's arrest. The commanders favor Zakir because, unlike Baradar—who never set foot in Afghanistan since the Taliban's collapse in late 2001—he frequently visits insurgent units in the field, giving them advice and listening to their complaints. For more than a year, Zakir, who is in his mid-30s, has largely been in charge of insurgent operations in the south of Afghanistan."

It appears initially that the capture of Baradar could in fact result in more harm than good, at least over the next 6-9 months. Although his removal from the critical Deputy position disrupted Taliban command and control and planning, the Taliban was clearly able to appoint a replacement relatively quickly who is highly respected, experienced, and less willing to consider reconciliation than Baradar reportedly was.

On a related note, the announcement of dual deputies is quite interesting and may offer possible opportunities to drive a wedge between the senior Taliban leadership. Clearly, the recent capture of several top Taliban leaders has disrupted the internal leadership structure and might have caused paranoia and infighting that we could exploit. We need to continue to develop a better understanding of the current structure and relationships within the Taliban's Inner Shura in order to identify potential weaknesses and select the best individuals to target, both kinetically and non-kinetically.

For more background on Mullah Abdul Qayim Zakir, check out my previous post here.

1 comment:

  1. On the last part, I remember a French tactic from the Algerian insurgency where they planted suggestive documents on dead fighters, leading the FLN to nearly rip itself apart in pointless purges.