Key Taliban Leaders in Afghanistan Eliminated

The Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Omar, however, still remains at large.

ByABC News
July 23, 2008, 5:46 PM

July 24, 2008— -- After a relentless series of "decapitation strikes" coalition sources say they have captured or killed almost the entire leadership of the Taliban that confronted NATO a year ago. The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Omar, however, still remains at large.

"The Taliban's command and control, as it was, has effectively been liquidated in south Afghanistan," said one senior NATO official. "The acid test is whether this will prove a strategic turning point, or whether a new leadership will emerge that is less controlled but more deadly."

There are already signs that the decapitation campaign is having an effect. One NATO commander said many local Taliban commanders were "getting a real sense that their death is near."

While many in the coalition say they believe a strategy of reconciliation – bringing low-level Taliban commanders over to the Government side – may ultimately be the key to ending the insurgency, few doubt that the threat of elimination will be an important incentive to persuade fighters to put down their weapons.

In the most recent success, British forces confirmed reports swirling around Pakistan's northwest frontier that Mullah Abdul Rahim Akhund, the Taliban shadow governor of Afghanistan's most volatile province and opium capital, Helmand, and the number three in the entire organization, surrendered to the Pakistani forces close to the border last Saturday. Though his death and capture have been proclaimed at least twice before now it seems one of America and Britain's most deadly foes in Afghanistan is truly at last off the battlefield.

The capture of Abdul Rahim marks the end of an intensive manhunt by US and British Special Forces that has lasted more than two years.

According to Afghan intel, Abdul Rahim was behind attacks on American, British and other NATO troops, the arbitrary execution of accused coalition spies, the destruction of health clinics and schools and a campaign of intimidation against anyone involved with the Afghan government or reconstruction.