Sometimes, capturing a Taliban commander requires vast resources and complex operations. Last week in eastern Afghanistan, it hinged on an insurgent’s “improbable stupidity,” as one U.S. official put it.
Mohammad Ashan, a mid-level Taliban commander in Paktika province, strolled toward a police checkpoint in the district of Sar Howza with a wanted poster bearing his own face. He demanded the finder’s fee referenced on the poster: $100.
Afghan officials, perplexed by the man’s misguided motives, arrested him on the spot. Ashan is suspected of plotting at least two attacks on Afghan security forces. His misdeeds prompted officials to plaster the district with hundreds of so-called “Be on the Lookout” posters emblazoned with his name and likeness.
When U.S. troops went to confirm that Ashan had in fact come forward to claim the finder’s fee, they were initially incredulous.
“We asked him, ‘Is this you?’ Mohammad Ashan answered with an incredible amount of enthusiasm, ‘Yes, yes, that’s me! Can I get my award now?’” recalled SPC Matthew Baker.
A biometric scan confirmed that the man in Afghan custody was the insurgent they had been looking for.