Yesterday, the Afghan National Army withdrew from two bases in the district of Musa Qala in Helmand. Today, we learn that the Afghan Army also withdrew from the district of Now Zad.
It appears that the Afghan military doesn’t intend to return to the bases anytime soon. As TOLONews reported, the bases are said to have been destroyed as the troops left:
Major general Mohammad Moeen Faqir, commander of 215 Maiwand Army Corps said Sunday that Afghan National Army (ANA) troops have withdrawn from three bases in Musa Qala and Nawzad districts in a move to improve security situations in the volatile province.
The three bases evacuated by the Afghan army are Sher Ghazian and Roshan tower bases in Musa Qala and Dahni base in Nawzad district.
According to members of the provincial council, 400 ANA troops were deployed in each base.
The ANA allegedly torched all three bases after leaving them. Security forces also reportedly evacuated the area under tight security from air and ground.
Helmand provincial council has criticized the ministry of defense for taking such a decision and warns of dire consequences.
“They [security forces] have left their military bases and outposts. Not only Musa Qala, but also Nawzad district is under the control of the Taliban,” said Ataullah Afghan, secretary of Helmand provincial council.
Like Musa Qala, The Long War Journal considered Now Zad to be effectively under the control of the Taliban, as press reports from Afghanistan indicated that the Afghan military was confined to its base as the Taliban administered key areas. The military’s withdrawal from Now Zad confirms that the Taliban now fully controls the district.
Helmand’s governor is attempting to put the best face on the military’s abandonment of two key districts that have served as Taliban bastions over the past decade and a half. From TOLONews:
Meanwhile, provincial governor Mirza Khan Rahimi has said that the Afghan army evacuated the bases in line with a comprehensive strategy.
“We have no concerns regarding this step, but we have plans in place to ensure security of vulnerable areas,” said Mirza Khan Rahimi, governor of Helmand.
In the past, the Taliban has used the northern Helmand provinces of Musa Qala, Now Zad, Bagran (which has remained under Taliban control for more than a decade), Washir (the status of Washir is unclear but the Afghan military operates a large base there), and Sangin and Kajaki (both which are heavily contested) to put pressure on the key central districts of Nahr-i-Sarraj, Nad Ali, and Lashkar Gah, which hosts the provincial capital. If the Afghan military and government officials believe that leaving Now Zad and Musa Qala will “improve security,” as TOLONews reported, then they haven’t been paying attention to the history of the fight in Helmand over the last decade.