The Taliban Return to Musa Qala

Taliban continues to suffer heavy losses in open combat; Musa Qala is back under Taliban control

Afghan National Army soldiers prepare to conduct a presence patrol in the village of Alizai in the Ghazni province. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Anderson. Click image to view.

Over the past week, NATO forces and the Taliban have battled in southern and eastern Afghanistan, resulting in extremely high losses by the Taliban, with few NATO casualties. Fifty-five Taliban were killed in fighting in Zabul. Fifty-five were killed after a force of 150 attacked a base in Tarin Kot, Uruzgan. Twelve Taliban were killed during an airstrike in Kandahar. An unknown number of Taliban were killed in a battle where up to 90 died (estimates range from 40 to 60 Taliban killed and 12 to 30 civilians). The Taliban are using human shields, and an American intelligence source informs us the Taliban had pressed civilians into a convoy of moving Taliban, which partially was responsible for the high casualties. NATO losses occurred during roadside or suicide bombings; none were killed in combat. The Taliban continue to attack in mass formations, and continue to pay the price. NATO launched Operation Eagle this week in an attempt to reestablish security and push forward reconstruction, indicating the fighting will continue through the winter.

But the goal of the Taliban is to split countries from the NATO alliance. Al-Qaeda has threated Canada with “an operation similar to New York, Madrid, London” if the country does not withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. The Canadians are fighting, fighting hard and effectively in the south, accounting for well over 1,500 Taliban killed just this year alone. The Taliban and al Qaeda are right to want them to leave.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, Coalition forces killed three terrorists and detained one during a raid on a “refuge for facilitators for a terrorist network” in Khost province. Afghan Intelligence arrested three men planning suicide attacks in Kabul. “They were part of a Pakistan-based cell organised by Mullah Mohammad Ibrahim Hanifi, who was the deputy police chief of Kabul during the 1996-2001 Taleban regime,” reports the Khaleej Times. “Mullah Ibrahim Hanifi, who is living in Pakistan, has been organising suicide attacks in southern Afghanistan. The two men we captured were also sent by him,” said Sayed Ansar, and Afghan spokesman.

Further south, in Helmand province, the secret deal between the British and pro-Taliban tribal leaders has reached the predictible conclusion. The Times Online reports Musa Qala has now fallen back into the hands of the Taliban. Nafaz Khan, the former chief of police of Musa Qala who fought along with the British of the Royal Irish Regiment, said the negotiations to turn Musa Qala over to ‘local tribesmen’ was just a ruse. “Those British soldiers were cursing with us when we were all told to leave… They said that they had fought and lost friends to keep the town. And now these tribal elders who are in charge of Musa Qala are the same who gave the Taliban support when they fought against us. The deal was just a clever trick to get the foreign soldiers to go.” Nafaz Khan’s statements are backed up by Haji Dad Mohammed Khan.

In Afghanistan officials said that the return of the Taliban to a town secured and then left by British troops was beyond dispute. “This is the first time in history that the Taliban were recognised as a political movement,” said Haji Dad Mohammed Khan, the former intelligence chief of Helmand, and now an MP in Kabul.

Mr Khan, who lost most of his family to a Taliban ambush this summer, said that since British troops pulled out a few weeks ago the town had become “a shelter for the Taliban”. He named the four main Taleban commanders controlling Musa Qala, and said that the new administration’s police chief and its principal leader, Mullah Malang and Haji Sher Agha, were a front for the Tale ban. Mr Khan added that only four days ago the Taliban kidnapped Ahmad Shahan, a prominent local government official, from the centre of Musa Qala. He has not been seen since.

Some elements within NATO still wish to negotiate similar deals with ‘local leaders’ in southern Afghanistan, despite the obvious failure of Musa Qala.

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


  • Marlin says:

    I thought this tidbit from ABC’s The Blotter was interesting.
    Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is personally leading the battles in Afghanistan, according to suspected al Qaeda figure Abu Yahya al Libi, who appeared in a video released today. “I stress, I swear to God, he is leading the battles himself,” claims al Libi.
    The Blotter: In New Video, Al Libi Claims Mullah Omar Personally Leads Battles

  • Aaron says:

    But, but, but, I thought that since the Brits don’t wear sunglasses on patrol that they knew how to do C-I better than us….


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