Released Taliban Commander Leads Attacks After Rejoining Insurgency

News - Afghanistan

Maulawi Ghulam Mohammad, a senior Taliban commander who was released last month from Bagram Prison, has reportedly joined the Taliban again and gone on a rampage against security forces, casting doubts on the wisdom of the Afghan government's efforts to release militants in order to kick-start peace talks with the insurgent group.

The Taliban commander was said to have rejoined the group soon after he was released and has since been responsible for the deaths of 13 Afghan Local Police (ALP) officers and injured 20 others in Badghis province within a span of one month.

Sharafuddin Sharaf, the Badghis Police Chief, said that Maulawi Ghulam Mohammad had been appointed as the Deputy Shadow Governor of the Taliban in Badghis province after his release.

Mr. Sharaf added that the Taliban commander is now leading a group of 400 insurgents and has launched several deadly attacks on security forces' check-posts in the province.

Maulawi Ghulam Mohammad was the Deputy Governor of Ghor province during the Taliban regime before the U.S. invasion in 2001. He was arrested by foreign forces immediately after the collapse of the regime. He was in prison until Bagram Prison was handed over to the Afghan Government, at which time he was released along with a number of other militants.

Several Afghan military experts said that the government should not have released the insurgents without mechanisms in place to guarantee they would not rejoin the Taliban. The experts believe that such negligence would undermine the morale of the security forces.

"The people will stop supporting the government if it does not stop such actions," Nurul Haq Olomi, a military expert told TOLOnews.

However, it would appear Kabul plans on doing just about the opposite. Following his visit to Islamabad last month, news of President Hamid Karzai's entreaties to the Pakistani government to release Taliban prisoners broke. Reportedly the Afghan government wants to see top Taliban leaders like Mullah Baradar released as part of its strategy to progress peace talks by building good-will with the Taliban and making certain commanders that are detained available for negotiations.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government has already announced the release of seven mid to low level Taliban prisoners, and has suggested that it would soon be releasing Mullah Baradar once conditions for his release are set.

Officials in Washington along with many Afghan security experts have expressed anxieties about prisoner releases, citing examples like that of Maulawi Ghulam Mohammad as evidence suggesting most detainees released simply return to the battlefield. However, with the peace process frozen since June, and the withdraw of foreign troops at the end of 2014 drawing nearer, the government in Kabul seems increasingly urgent to get the negotiation process back on track. And it seems willing to try just about anything to do so.

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