Which Mullah Abdul Salaam Does Pakistan Have In Custody?

[The mystery surrounding the recent Pakistani arrests of Afghan Taliban leaders can best be seen in the following alleged pictures of Mullah Abdul Salaam.  The first picture comes from Der Spiegel.  It will be remembered that the northern Afghan territory of Kunduz is allegedly under Salaam’s command, a district under German NATO troops.  This was the location of the US attack upon a gas tanker in support of German forces, which killed as many as 60 Afghans, most of them civilians.  This implies that the German source should have a real photo of Salaam.

The next photo is supplied by the widely-read Long Wars Journal.  This photo allegedly comes from an online Islamic militant site, Al-Samoud Magazine.

This is a photo of a former Taliban leader by the same name.  He was one of those leaders who were dealing with British Envoy Michael Semple and EU diplomat Mervyn Patterson, when they were exposed and expelled from Afghanistan.  Excerpts from these negotiations are included at the end of this article.

This Mullah Salaam became an official in the Karzai government.  This next one is his photo from Reuter’s:

There are further questions that must be asked:  (1)  Which of these Afghans does Pakistan have in custody;  –giving the German source the benefit of the doubt, due to its familiarity with the Mullah Salaam who has been leading attacks upon its troops– (2)  Why would a respected news source like the Long War Journal put-out a photo of this mysterious figure without double-checking other sources, or put-out a purposely misleading photo? –NOTE–Long War Journal, along with Jamestown Foundation, proved to be original sources for this erroneous picture of Baitullah Mehsud.

Key tribal leader on verge of deserting Taliban

Oct 2007

By Tom Coghlan in Kabul

An Afghan tribal leader is in talks to defect from the Taliban and take thousands of armed tribesmen with him to fight alongside British forces in southern Afghanistan.

The Daily Telegraph has learned that the Afghan government hopes to seal the deal this week with Mullah Abdul Salaam and his Alizai tribe, which has been fighting alongside the Taliban in Helmand province.

Diplomats confirmed yesterday that Mullah Salaam was expected to change sides within days. He is a former Taliban corps commander and governor of Herat province under the government that fell in 2001.

Military sources said British forces in the province are “observing with interest” the potential deal in north Helmand, which echoes the efforts of US commanders in Iraq’s western province to split Sunni tribal leaders from their al-Qa’eda allies.

The Afghan deal would see members of the Alizai tribe around the Taliban-held town of Musa Qala quit the insurgency and pledge support to the Afghan government. It would be the first time that the Kabul government and its Western allies have been able exploit tribal divisions that exist within the Taliban in southern Afghanistan….

According to tribal elders in Helmand and Western diplomats in Kabul, Mullah Salaam had been attempting to negotiate with the Afghan government in secret.

But details of the talks were leaked late last week to his erstwhile allies and this reportedly led to a split in the Taliban ranks.

Other Taliban leaders have since plotted to assassinate Mullah Salaam. “Mullah Abdul Salaam is very influential and he has the support of thousands of our tribe,” said Haji Saleem Khan, the head of the Shura (or tribal council) of the Alizai in Helmand.

“When the Taliban found out that he planned to join the government three days ago they tried to kill him. But they have failed….

Some sections of the Alizai, by contrast, have been dominant within both the drugs trade and provincial power structures.

Sher Mohammad Akhundzada, the former provincial governor who was allegedly a kingpin in the local drugs trade, was an Alizai.

The mysterious Afghan warlord trusted to spread peace in a divided province

January 12, 2008

….Mullah Salaam’s rise to power in Musa Qala, the test case for British efforts to evict the Taleban and install central authority, is a classic Afghan tale of intrigue, bloodshed, farce and fate. In an interview with The Times the former warlord explained how last year he had severed relations with the Taleban, was courted secretly by a foreign diplomat and eventually swapped sides to join the British-led effort.

“The Taleban called a shurah [council] to attack the district centre and coalition forces there but though invited I did not attend nor fight,” he said. “It was not a good thing.”

He was then approached by Michael Semple, an Irish diplomat working for the European Union in Kabul. Mr Semple, a fluent Pashto-speaking veteran of Afghanistan, was expelled last month by the Government in Kabul for his back-channel contacts with the Taleban.

Before being ordered out he managed to put together a deal with the former Taleban commander. “We discussed reconciliation and unity in Afghanistan,” Mullah Salaam said of the first of his several meetings with Mr Semple. “I was surprised to hear of his recent expulsion.”

Mullah Salaam went to Kabul for a meeting with President Karzai last autumn. He caught the Afghan leader’s imagination with the promise of a tribal uprising against the Taleban, which could, potentially, deliver Musa Qala into government hands with barely a shot being fired. The idea led to a War Cabinet meeting in Kabul, which included the British and American ambassadors, President Karzai and General Dan McNeill, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The result was operation Mar Karadad, which had to be accelerated at the end of November when Kabul heard news that Mullah Salaam, now back in Musa Qala, had attracted the attention of the Taleban and the uprising was imminent.

There was no uprising. When Afghan, British and US units closed in on Musa Qala last month, Mullah Salaam stayed in his compound in Shakahraz, ten miles east, with a small cortège of fighters, where he made increasingly desperate pleas for help.

“He said that he would bring all the tribes with him but they never materialised,” recalled one British officer at the forefront of the operation. “Instead, all that happened was a series of increasingly fraught and frantic calls from him for help to Karzai.”

In spite of his broken promises Mullah Salaam was still one of the few credible local leaders prepared to work with the British. He also proved to be a skilled orator. This week he took his antiTaleban campaign to elders in the rainswept village of Chaghali, ten miles from Musa Qala.

“It is enough now,” he urged the 30 men huddled around him. “Our dead have been eaten by the dogs.” He gestured at a small group of British and American officers. “You can see around you these people from noble nations have come to build you streets and schools. If they should ask you to leave your religion then you have a right to fight them, but not because they come to bring you streets and schools.”