KABUL — Two Taliban leaders in northern Afghan provinces have been arrested, according to Afghan and Pakistani officials. The arrests occurred in close proximity to the capture of the Taliban's second-in-command.
Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban leader in Kunduz province, and Mullah Mohammed, the leader in Baghlan province, were taken into custody in Pakistan about 10 days ago, according to the governor of Kunduz, Mohammed Omar.
The two men served as "shadow governors," part of the extensive network of Taliban leaders across Afghanistan who help coordinate the insurgency and mete out swift and often brutal settlements to local disputes.
Along with the recent capture of Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's No. 2 commander, the arrests represent an important crackdown on insurgents who until now have largely operated with impunity on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There were differing accounts about where Salam and Mohammed were captured. Omar said that both men were arrested in Quetta, but a Pakistani security official said they were arrested in or around the northern city of Peshawar. There were also conflicting views about whether their arrests came before or after Baradar's arrest.
Officials in northern Afghanistan described the arrests as a potentially watershed moment in the fight against the Taliban. "This has already made a huge impact. They've lost morale, it's created distress among the Taliban, and their forces have scattered around," said Mohammed Akbar Barakzai, the Baghlan governor, in an interview.
Omar, the Kunduz governor, said Salam commanded about 2,000 fighters in his province and predicted that the arrest could potentially diminish Taliban strength by 40 to 50 percent in the area.