Yowza:

Afghan forces have trapped up to 200 Taliban fighters in a southern village, possibly including the militia’s military commander, demanding they surrender or come under attack, Afghan officials said Monday…

Khan told The Associated Press that Mullah Dadullah, a close aide to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, and other regional Taliban commanders were at the meeting when the village was surrounded. The security forces were still positioned around the village on Monday, he said.

“We are trying to get him to surrender and to arrest these Taliban without fighting,” he said.

Abdul Hadi Khalid, the deputy interior minister for security, told a security commission in parliament on Monday that it was “possible that Mullah Dadullah is among” those who were attending the meeting. He said Afghan officials had demanded that the Taliban surrender or face military action. He did not mention any deadline for negotiations.

Dadullah’s a hugely important figure, not only the de facto operational leader of the Taliban but a key recruiter of new jihadis in western Pakistan. Last year Newsweek called him the “Taliban Zarqawi,” which is a sound analogy in at least three ways: both are notoriously sadistic, both have a fondness for video propaganda (I remember reading recently somewhere that Dadullah’s tapes are all the rage these days in Quetta), and both operate essentially autonomously while swearing/feigning loyalty to some more prominent jihadi figurehead. He’s so important, in fact, that I wonder if Mullah Omar, the official leader of the Taliban, isn’t actually a Keyser Soze figure for Dadullah at this point. All of which helps answer Ace’s question about why NATO is giving them the option to surrender instead of going in there and blasting them to pieces. The guy’s an intelligence goldmine; in fact, he’s claimed more than once to have had recent contact with Osama. If there’s any way to take him alive, which there probably isn’t, that’s what they want to do.

They’ve had him surrounded since Saturday, apparently; I wonder if this pinch last month had anything to do with finding him. Exit question: Anyone here actually believe we’re going to close the deal and take this animal out? It always seems in these situations that either they weren’t there to begin with or they were there but managed to slip away.

We haven’t had a big terror arrest/killing since Zarqawi himself was sent to see Allah last June, so maybe we’re due.

Update: Changed the headline to read “Afghan forces” instead of “NATO.” Now I really don’t expect them to close the deal.

Update: Al Jazeera’s sources are hearing the same thing as the AP’s.

Tags: Al Jazeera