KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) – A former Taliban commander who switched sides and helped NATO-led forces take a troubled southern area in a major operation last year has been made local governor, officials said Tuesday.
Abdul Salaam joined the government just before the start of the joint NATO-Afghan operation to re-take Musa Qala in Helmand province, which was controled by the Taliban Islamist militia for almost a year.
Taliban forces withdrew in the face of the coalition attack and the district fell to British and Afghan forces on December 4.
Deputy governor Pir Mohammad said Abdul Salaam was now running the district along with himself and Afghan army Colonel Dadan Lawang.
“The government listened to the will of the locals on the appropriate governor for the district,” he said, adding that hundreds of villagers had attended several meetings to choose the leadership council.
“Finally the locals and tribesmen authorized the three-member council to appoint someone appropriate for the position and the council decided two days ago that Abdul Salaam was the right person,” Mohammad said.
The government admits the Taliban controls three districts in Helmand, the centre of the country’s massive opium trade.
Musa Qala took on symbolic significance after the Taliban seized it in the wake of a British-brokered deal to hand power over to local leaders.
The defense ministry said up to 200 militants including 17 Taliban commanders were killed as part of the operation to recapture Musa Qala.