U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood said the U.S. will help the people of Musa Qala, in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, recover from Taliban occupation and terrorism. Supported by the NATO-led International Security Force, Afghan troops re-captured Musa Qala in December, ending ten-months of Taliban occupation. “Now we know that over two-hundred Taliban were killed” in the fighting, said Afghan defense ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi. “Seventeen of them," he said, "were Taliban commanders.”
Mullah Abdul Salaam broke with the Taliban and joined the Afghan government, bringing some three-hundred former Taliban insurgents with him. Ambassador Wood said, “one of the elements of hope is that a former Taliban commander has now not only agreed to support the constitution and respect the authority of the national government, but as district governor, will defend the constitution and represent the national government.”
Mullah Salaam thanked the U.S. and Britain for helping Afghans fight Soviet occupation in the 1980s. “I ask the international community to help us now against the terrorists as much as you did during the jihad [against Soviet occupation],” he said. Mullah Salaam called on other Taliban insurgents to lay down their arms and support the Afghan government.
Mullah Salaam said that under Taliban occupation, Musa Qala had become a center of terrorism and narcotic trafficking. “People must be convinced that they will not be abandoned, as they were in the past,” to Taliban control, he said. The U.S. has already committed some three-million dollars in development aid to Musa Qala, including new school supplies and reconstruction equipment. Future projects to be implemented as security upgraded may include improved electricity transmission lines and alternative crop incentives for farmers to abandon opium poppy.
“It is the people of Musa Qala who know what Musa Qala needs and we want to hear their voices,” said U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Wood. “The eyes of the world will be on Musa Qala,” he said, “and we want. . .to see success, to see peace, to see reconciliation, to see health, to see education, and too see good governance.”