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Sher Mohammed Akhundzada

Sher Mohammed Akhundzada [Shir Mohammad Akhundzada] was the governor of Helmand province. Helmand was a strong base of support for the Taliban in previous years, and international coalition forces receive little warmth from the provincial governor. Akhundzada warned that the conduct of coalition troops and their Afghan allies could drive Afghans toward remaining Taliban influence. He faced pressure from the Americans and the interim government in Kabul to foster understanding and cooperation between the tribes of Helmand and the coalition troops.

On 9 August 2004, Akhundzada narrowly survived an assassination attempt carried out by Taliban militants. In subsequent search operations, the provincial police arrested 20 suspected Taliban in Lashkargah city agencies and seized a large number of weapons from them. Other militants who have been captured by Akhundzada's forces thus far are Afghans from the refugee community in Pakistan. They described receiving training in large, walled residential compounds in and around Quetta, rather than in military camps.

Helmand was relatively stable until 2005, when regional strongman and Governor Sher Mohammad Akhundzada was removed by President Hamid Karzai for suspected drug links under immense international pressure. Despite the presence of some 6,000 British troops, which later rose to 9,000, the Taliban crept back into the province and took control of most of it.

By early 2009 Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal was continuing his efforts to identify ooperative Alizai tribal leaders with whom he might work, but he has not managed to sideline local strongman and Karzai favorite Sher Mohammad Akhundzada (SMA). He remained committed to his strategy of finding such people while also stressing the importance of more engagement with Alizais as a whole and bringing tangible improvements to their lives. In general, many people continue to think only in terms of three Alizais as real influence-wielders -- former governor Sher Mohammad Akhundzada, Mullah Salam in Musa Qala and Rais Baghrani in the province's northernmost district.

Considered by many to be the country's most insecure province, Helmand accounted for a lion's share of the world's opium supply and some remote areas remain under Taliban control. On 19 March 2009 an IED explosion killed Helmand MP Dhad Mohammad Khan (DMK) as his motorcade traveled through Kandahar Province en route to Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province. His killing sparked a parliamentary hearing on the Afghan government's efforts to protect MPs and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these types of incidents. Resulting from this hearing, security ministry and parliamentary leadership will meet and devise a specific plan to address these issues. DMK (described by one observer as "unsavory") had served as a member of the National Assembly's Lower House since 2005. A former Helmand National Directorate of Security (NDS) Chief, DMK was closely linked to Helmand strongman Sher Mohammad Akhundzada (SMA) and allegedly heavily involved in narcotics production and smuggling.

In the run-up to the 2009 presidential electino, in Helmand voter apathy among Pashtuns was high. In a clear sign of concern about the turnout, the Karzai campaign sent Sher Muhammad Akhundzada (SMA), the influential former governor who was removed from office two years earlier, to Lashkar Gah on 10 August 2009 to line up support from key local leaders and engage the public on Karzai's behalf. SMA held a large campaign shura at Karzai stadium in Lahkar Gah. He also prepared a campaign visit for Karzai (which was ultimately cancelled because of a suicide bombing the day before) and has spent considerable time with provincial officials and tribal elders to enlist their support for the Karzai campaign. PRT sources believe SMA will continue to employ his political skills in Lashkar Gah through the election period to try to ensure a favorable outcome for President Karzai.

President Karzai has continued to favor Al-Haj Mullah Sher Mohammad Akhundzada for reinstatement as governor, despite his record of abuse and narcotics trafficking, citing his earlie removal as a cause for the Talibans subsequent successes in destabilizing the province. British officials are reported to have threatened to withdraw their forces from the province if Akhundzada were reinstated, a move they viewed as an attempt to protect narcotics interests in the region.

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Page last modified: 21-08-2012 12:37:47 ZULU