Former warlord blames UK for breakdown in security

A former Taliban commander who swapped sides last year has accused his British allies of jeopardising security and undermining his authority in a row that has plunged their relations to an all time low.

Mullah Salam was made governor of Musa Qala, Helmand, after British, American and Afghan forces retook the town in December. His defection was the catalyst for the operation. But the British fear his warlord ways are hampering their efforts to win over local people, and driving them back into the hands of the insurgents. They have branded him a "James Bond baddie" and accused him of running a personal militia of ex-Taliban thugs, while doing nothing to support reconstruction.

Mullah Salam says British soldiers are wrecking his attempts to bring security by releasing people he arrests and underfunding his war chest – which he claims is for buying off insurgent commanders.

The British, with hundreds of troops at the 5 Scots headquarters inside Musa Qala and more in nearby outposts, suspect he is on the take. The top British diplomat at the headquarters, Dr Richard Jones, said: "He likes to feather his own nest."

Both groups know his fate is being closely watched by other Taliban commanders thinking about changing sides.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ed Freely, who commands the Royal Irish troops training Afghanistan's army, said: "He appears less interested in governing his people than reinforcing his own personal position of power."

Musa Qala was the jewel in the Taliban crown. It was retaken by the Taliban after British forces withdrew under a controversial deal to hand it back to local elders in 2006. Lieutenant-Colonel David Richmond, who shares his headquarters with Salam's compound inside the town, said: "He was the man for the moment, but his concept of governance is very different from ours. Very often he says the wrong thing and does the wrong thing, but he is the only governor we've got."

The British believe he taxed his own villagers more than a ton of opium at the end of the poppy harvest. They also suspect his militia of stealing land, money and motorbikes, and beating people who can't pay. Mullah Salam denies the allegations.

"If I see anyone in my militia doing these things I will shoot him," he said, revealing his own brand of Taliban-style justice.

Suicide attacks: The Taliban's latest tactic

Suicide attacks have long been used as a murderous tactic in Iraq but they have only recently been used as a regular tool in the conflict in Afghanistan. After incurring heavy losses in the autumn of last year, the Taliban started to adopt the type of suicide bombing attacks prevalent in Iraq.

Figures published by the United Nations show there were a record 140 suicide bombings in Afghanistan last year – a 69 per cent increase over the same period last year. The Taliban concentration on suicide bombings followed a change of tactics by the British military to establish a presence on the Taliban's home ground to begin reconstruction projects. Despite the presence of more than 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, some American officials believe that the country is replacing Iraq as the deadliest place in the "war on terror". More than 6,000 people – mostly militants – were killed last year, with the highest ever number of suicide attacks, including one at the Serena hotel in Kabul, the city's most prestigious hotel used by international VIPs.

Correspondents say the militants often target Afghan and international security forces as part of their effort to topple the pro-Western Afghan government. Gereshk, formerly a busy commercial centre, has become a particular target as shops and businesses have begun to reappear, with Taliban fighters launching attacks from outlying villages.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...