German Taliban special forces chief caught in raid by Afghan forces
Afghan soldiers with Abdul Wadood.
Afghan troops have captured a German man thought to be a senior commander of the Taliban’s infamous Red Unit.
He was seized in a raid in Helmand province, now a Taliban stronghold. Photographs showed a man in his forties, with a reddish beard, wearing traditional Afghan dress under a khaki military jacket and topped with a black turban.
He gave his name as Abdul Wadood and is believed to be a military adviser to Mullah Nasir, the local commander of the Red Unit. The elite force is handpicked from the insurgents’ best fighters, trained to carry out commando-style raids and granted the best Western equipment looted from Afghan forces.
Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said the German had been taken to Kandahar for “further investigation”.
Foreigners from Pakistan, Arab states and central Asia are common among the Pashtun tribesmen of the Taliban but it is rare for citizens of Western nations to be accepted by the Islamists, still less so for them to rise so high within the group. One, John Walker Lindh, known as the “American Taliban”, was captured in Afghanistan and jailed for 20 years in 2002.
Rumours have persisted for months of Islamic State fighters from the Middle East drifting into Afghanistan to join the local franchise of ISIS. However, observers are sceptical European Islamists would see the country as fertile new ground, especially with the US subjecting the ISIS stronghold of Nangarhar province to heavy bombing.
Taliban Red Units have emerged in several parts of the country in recent months. Equipped with night-vision goggles and laser-targeting weapons, they have launched a series of raids on local troops, killing dozens.
President Ashraf Ghani unveiled a framework for peace with the Taliban this week, including recognising the insurgents as a political party if they join negotiations.