insurgent group enters Afghan fray By Frud Bezhan
As the Afghan
government struggles to reach a negotiated peace
settlement with insurgents while international
troops prepare to withdraw in 2014, a previously
marginal militant group has answered the call for
talks with a resounding "no".
recently, little was heard of the Mullah Dadullah
Front, an extremist militant group that operates
mainly out of southern Afghanistan. But that has
changed, with the group claiming responsibility
for the assassination of a key negotiator for the
High Peace Council, the government's main avenue
for peace talks, and for sending death threats to
The front takes the name
of a former radical Taliban commander who was
killed in a United States-led attack in Helmand province
in 2007. Afghan
intelligence officials have described the group as
a Taliban faction.
Despite having vowed to
target members of the High Peace Council, the
Taliban was quick to distance itself from the
recent assassination and has publicly stated that
it is not affiliated with the Mullah Dadullah
Mohammad Yasin Zia, deputy chief of
the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the
Afghan intelligence body, says that although
details about the group are sketchy, its recent
actions show the group's clear opposition to peace
talks and to an extended American military
presence in the country.
'They are all
terrorists' Zia, who played down the
threat posed by the radical group, maintained that
the incidents were part of a psychological war to
instill fear in the minds of Afghan citizens and
"This is part of a
psychological war," he said. "Only a few people
have gathered together. They've created something
imaginary so it can have a bad influence on the
minds of Afghan people.
"There should be
no concern over the group. The Mullah Dadullah
Front is no different from others; they are all
Zia's remarks come after the
NDS announced on May 19 that it had arrested three
members of the front in Kabul. The alleged
members, who are in custody, were reportedly in
possession of several suicide vests.
arrests also followed reports last week that
numerous members of parliament had received text
messages and telephone calls attributed to the
group, in which they were told they would be
"targeted" if they ratified the recently signed
strategic agreement between Washington and Kabul.
Parliament, which opened discussion on the
agreement on May 22, is expected to decide on
ratification as soon as this week.
agreement, which covers relations between the two
countries when North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) forces pull out in 2014, has to be ratified
by the Afghan senate and parliament before it can
go into effect.
The Dadullah Front also
claimed responsibility for the assassination, on
May 14, of Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban
official who had become an influential member of
the Afghan High Peace Council.
who lived under government protection in Kabul,
was seen as a viable mediator in any future
negotiations between the Afghan government and the
After the Afghan government
accused the Taliban of responsibility for the
assassination, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid
promptly released a statement denying involvement
in the incident.
"We are still committed
to our campaign against the members of the
so-called peace council, but again I insist that
the Taliban were not behind today's
assassination," the statement read.
'Hardcore' offshoot Nonetheless, Jeffrey Dressler, a senior
analyst and team leader for Afghanistan and
Pakistan at the Institute for the Study of War in
Washington, DC, considers the Dadullah Front to be
a "hardcore" offshoot within the larger Taliban
He says that it is unclear how
numerically strong the Dadullah Front is, but adds
that the group has recently expanded its sphere of
influence to the southeastern provinces of Zabul
and Ghazni, in addition to the southern provinces
of Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan.
Dressler, who says the group has been
active for several years, maintains that the
group's power and reach should not be overstated,
despite its higher profile of late.
sense is that the power and reach of this group is
limited and although they may have increased their
geographic spread, it doesn't necessarily mean
that they are a significant threat," he told
"Despite this, successfully
executing proponents of peace talks will certainly
not help the overall effort, which hasn't fared
well thus far."
Although he plays down the
significance of the Dadullah Front, Dressler is
discouraged by the fact that radical elements of
the Taliban continue to have considerable
influence over the divisive issue of peace talks
with the Afghan government and international
"Although there are individuals
within the Taliban movement that are more moderate
than these extremist factions, they do not appear
to be terribly influential, even if they are in
fact a majority," he wrote in a recently published
Afghan intelligence officials have
described Mullah Dadullah, the man, as an
effective yet brutal militant leader who had close
ties with al-Qaeda and embraced the terrorist
organization's extremist tactics, including the
use of suicide bombers and the incorporation of
During the Taliban's
reign, Dadullah was famous for his acts of
cruelty, including public hangings, and the
stoning of women.
He was also known for
massacring hundreds from the minority Shi'ite
Hazara ethnic group in central Afghanistan.