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Key Taliban commander killed in eastern Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents turn themselves in to Afghan forces, 2010. (Resolute Support Media/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A key Taliban commander has been killed in an operation conducted by Afghan government forces in the country’s east, the Defense Ministry says.

A ministry spokesman said Bilal Zardan was killed in the eastern province of Paktika late on December 18.

Zardan was the head of the Taliban’s special forces, also known as the Red Unit, for the provinces of Ghazni, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, and Logar, according to the spokesman, Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed.

Jawed said Zardan had played a major role in destabilizing the five eastern provinces.

The targeting of top Taliban commanders in Afghanistan is part of a strategy to apply heavier battlefield pressure on the extremist group and to eliminate militant field commanders seen as major obstacles to possible peace talks.

Abdul Manan, the shadow Taliban governor of the province of Helmand and the militants’ top military commander in southern Afghanistan, was killed in a joint operation by U.S. and Afghan special forces on December 2.

Over the following days, the Taliban shadow governors of Ghor and Paktika Provinces were also killed in separate operations.