Afghan Army abandons another district in Helmand

Map detailing Taliban-controlled or contested districts. Click colored district for information. Map created by Bill Roggio, Caleb Weiss, and Patrick Megahan.

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Mohammad Moeen Faqir, commander of 215 Maiwand Army Corps said Sunday that Afghan National Army (ANA) troops have withdrawn from three bases in Musa Qala and Nawzad districts in a move to improve security situations in the volatile province.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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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8 Comments

  • Randy says:

    Great map Bill; What are the color codes however?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thanks Randy. Black is Taliban controlled, red is contested. I updated the text below map. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • Mike Smith says:

    I believe Nad Ali is also fully under Taliban control, and I don’t think there are any government personnel in Washir any more. I think the coming 2016 Battle of Lashkar Gah is going to be the Dien Bien Phu of the Afghan War.

  • Rosario says:

    Gosh Bill, another grim but factual report, this feels a lot like 1974. I would wager unless ISAF troop levels are increased by something comparable to US troop levels in South Korea soon the present Afghan government will be history next year.

    • irebukeu says:

      As long as there is some sucker to step up and pay the bills of the Afghan government (For the Afghans there ALWAYS has to be a sucker), the corruption, the bacha bazi, the government and the war, will continue with no end until the next sucker steps up and the purses of the current sucker are emptied.
      Obama should have stuck with getting out in 2014 IMO. If he had done so the taliban would have by now, already fallen out with each other and various factions would develop. Some of these would be moderating factions. Either way, they will kill each other.
      Do not give the taliban the unifying object of a western crusader army to focus Afghans on and they will turn on each other.
      How do I know this? well I don’t “know it”but if we use both our knowledge of Human nature which never changes and look at the history of Afghanistan, what other conclusion can we come to?
      It’s time to close the purse, clear a circle and watch them all fight.

  • Fred says:

    And this is the winter?

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis