Former Taliban commander made Afghan governor
* Mullah Abdul Salaam took part in operation to retake Musa Qala
KANDAHAR: A former Taliban commander who switched sides and helped NATO-led forces reclaim a troubled southern area in a major operation last year has been made local governor, officials said Tuesday.
Abdul Salaam joined the government just before the start of the joint NATO-Afghan operation to retake Musa Qala in Helmand province, which was controlled by the Taliban for almost a year. Taliban forces withdrew in the face of the coalition attack and the district fell to British and Afghan forces on December 4. “Abdul Salaam has been appointed as the district chief of Musa Qala,” presidential spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told reporters Tuesday.
“The president has said before that all those former Taliban who come and accept the constitution, who want to participate in the political process through non-violent means, they’re all welcome,” he said. “Mullah Abdul Salaam had a role in liberating Musa Qala from terrorist elements and he had a role in bringing unity among the different tribes,” he added. Deputy governor of Helmand province Pir Mohammad said Abdul Salaam was now running the district with local approval.
“The government listened to the will of the locals on the appropriate governor for the district,” he said, adding that hundreds of villagers had attended meetings to choose the leadership council. “Finally the locals and tribesmen authorised the three-member council to appoint someone appropriate for the position and the council decided two days ago that Abdul Salaam was the right person,” Mohammad said.
Salaam was once the governor of south central Uruzgan province under the six-year reign of the Taliban and mostly served as a military commander for them. He says he gave up fighting after the collapse of the regime and returned to civilian life, but he was arrested and jailed for eight months by the former governor of Helmand, Mullah Shir Mohammad, now a senator. After his release he became a member of the tribal council in Musa Qala, his home town.
The Taliban stormed Musa Qala in February 2007, breaking a controversial deal in which British forces pulled out at the request of elders, who said they would handle security after months of intense fighting. Salaam switched sides after the Taliban sidelined the council. “I turned against the Taliban mainly after they disrespected the council,” he told AFP. “I said ‘yes’ to the invitation of the government to work with them in the recapture of Musa Qala. afp