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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 18:47 GMT
Ex-Taleban chief named governor
By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Afghanistan

British soldier patrols Musa Qala on 15 December 2007
Musa Qala has faced rocket attacks almost daily since the Taleban left
A former Afghan Taleban leader who switched sides has been made governor of a town in Helmand province won back from the rebels in December.

Mullah Abdul Salaam takes charge of Musa Qala, which was recaptured by British and Afghan troops after being held by the Taleban for nine months.

The town took on symbolic significance for both sides - it was described as "iconic" by the UK's defence secretary.

It was retaken after aerial bombardment and fighting on the outskirts.

But the Taleban melted away when the Afghan national army marched in.

A major factor was that Mullah Abdul Salaam, formerly a key Taleban commander, had been persuaded to switch sides.

Dealing with the Taleban independently could be seen as supporting them against President Karzai
Alastair Leithead
BBC correspondent, Afghanistan

Now he is the government's man in Musa Qala as district governor, and he is saying all the right things, encouraging townspeople to support the government.

"It's a good opportunity," he says.

"The international community has come to your assistance - it helps your children, it gives you money. It's for you to implement the law now - Allah's law."

As a former Taleban commander, those are strong words.

Confusing message

The test will be whether he follows them up with actions - and people critical of the government need to be won over soon.

But over Christmas, two diplomats from the UN and the EU were expelled for allegedly meeting and doing deals with the Taleban.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown says there are no negotiations with the Taleban.

It all sends a confusing message as to exactly what tactics the Afghan government and the international community are using to break the insurgency, and whether those efforts are being properly co-ordinated.

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