Former Taliban commander is new Afghan district chief

By Xinhua

Kabul : The Afghan government has appointed a former Taliban commander and provincial governor as district chief of Musa Qala, recently recaptured from the Taliban, in southern Afghanistan, an official confirmed Tuesday.

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“It is a fact,” presidential spokesman Hamayon Hamidzada said at a press briefing when asked if Afghan authorities had picked up former Taliban commander Mullah Salam as the chief of Musa Qala district.

“In line with the government’s policy, the president very often said that all those who accept the constitution of Afghanistan are welcome,” Hamidzada said. “Mullah Salam had a role in bringing unity in different tribes in Musa Qala,” he added.

Mullah Salam, who had been the Taliban governor of southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province before the regime collapsed in late 2001, switched side recently and cooperated with Afghan and NATO troops in recapturing Taliban main base Musa Qala in December 2007.

“He is a source of inspiration for the people,” the presidential spokesman said while referring to the appointment of Salam.

Musa Qala, the Taliban heartland in Afghanistan’s troubled Helmand province, was regained by Afghan government forces during a December offensive launched with assistance from foreign troops.