He was appointed governor of Nangarhar province after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, and states that the Islamic State will be eradicated from the country.
Neda Mohammad, regional Taliban leader, September 5, 2021 — Photo: James Edgar/AFP
Two weeks ago, he was still the leader of the Taliban rebellion in Nangarhar, a strategic eastern province. Mullah Mohammad is now the governor.
He started working in a palace in the center of Jalalabad, the main city in the region. The governor says the decisive victory for the takeover came in early August, in the district of Sherzad, after “intense fighting” that brought his troops to the entrance of Jalalabad.
This was one of the big cities the Taliban conquered before the Afghan government and army disbanded.
In the following days, two Taliban leaders recounted, the then provincial governor sent messages: “He said ‘I am not going to fight for (President) Ashraf Ghani, and I don’t want the city to be destroyed,'” recalls one of them. “We accepted the agreement, we didn’t want to fight in the city either,” he adds.
For two days, Mullah Mohammad positioned troops around the city, held consultations and organized the future administration.
On August 15, the Taliban entered Jalalabad and local authorities surrendered. Hours later, the capital Kabul fell in the same way and President Ghani fled the country.
Many Jalalabad residents are terrified as they recall the brutal Taliban regime of the 1990s and its subsequent violent attacks.
“We affirm that there will be no problems,” said Mullah Mohammad. The Taliban will rule for “all Afghans,” he said.
Despite the assurances, “many people in the city fear for their freedom of expression that the Taliban will persecute those who don’t think like them. And women are afraid of losing a lot,” explains one resident, who runs an NGO.
Mullah Mohammad says the population is broadly supportive of the Taliban and its priorities: restoring the economy and ensuring security.
Islamic State of Khorasan
In addition to common crimes, the former war leader turned governor’s first objective remains O Islamic State of Khorasan (EI-K), author of several attacks in Afghanistan’s recent past, including the suicide bombing that killed more than 100 Afghans, 13 US military personnel and two Britons near Kabul airport on 26 August.
US Destroys Islamic State Car Bomb in Kabul
The EI-K advance, particularly in Nangarhar, worries the United States, now outside Afghanistan but wishing to prevent, 20 years after al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks, a global extremist network is re-established. in this country. A threat that led Washington to approach former Taliban enemies in an attempt to eradicate the extremist group.
The country’s new rulers quickly announced that they would not tolerate further attacks by the Islamic State. “They will not find refuge with us, we will pursue all their fighters,” Mullah Mohammad guarantees.
“We have fought them, they are not very numerous. Since our coming to power (in Jalalabad), we have arrested between 70 and 80 of their fighters.”
Some analysts in the region cite a possible rapprochement with the EI-K of some Taliban, such as the Haqqani network, considered a terrorist by Washington and historically close to al-Qaeda. Its leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is one of the main Taliban leaders.
“There is no relationship, it is totally false,” says Mullah Mohammad. “His Excellency Sirajuddin Haqqani is one of our leaders and we are all firmly committed against the Islamic State.”