Commander of Taliban Special Forces 'Red Unit' Killed in Afghanistan

In this photograph taken on October 9, 2016, Afghan National Army commandos take position during a military operation in Helmand province. NOOR MOHAMMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The commander of the Taliban's "special forces" branch, known as the "Red Unit," was killed last week in Helmand province by Afghan forces, according to Afghanistan's main intelligence agency.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said Mullah Shah Wali, also known as Mullah Naser, was killed in an air operation in Helmand.

The province is a Taliban stronghold in the heartland of Afghanistan's lucrative drug trade.

Wali became the commander of the Taliban's "Red Unit" as well as deputy shadow governor of Helmand province, three years ago and was directly involved in Taliban offensives, the statement said.

The "Red Unit" is thought to be equipped with advanced weapons, including night vision scopes, 82mm rockets, heavy machine guns and U.S.-made assault rifles, according to the Afghan military.

It is thought to have about 300 members, and has launched surprise attacks on Afgan forces using Russian-made night vision goggles.

The Taliban has released videos and images showing the fighters attacking a military checkpoint and engaging in specialised training drills.

Wali was killed alongside a suicide bomber and two other Taliban commanders in Helmand's Musa Qala district, according to the NDS.

The United States has worked hard to build up Afghan air support and attack capabilities since they were found inadequate after most foreign forces withdrew three years ago.