Musa Qala and the NATO offensive

The Brits concede Musa Qala is under Taliban control, the US said it will retake it, and NATO plans to prevent a Taliban offensive.

Afghanistan NATO 1.JPG

Map of ISAF Mission in Afghanistan. Click to Enlarge.

The BBC reports the Taliban have finally taken the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province. “Two residents of Musa Qala estimated that between 200 and 300 Taliban fighters had overtaken the town,” reports the Associated Press. “They said the fighters took weapons from the police on Wednesday and destroyed the town’s government center late Thursday.” Just fall, the British military, without the approval of NATO command, negotiated a ‘peace’ with ‘local elders,’ much like the Waziristan Accord agreement between Pakistani government and the Taliban and al Qaeda. But the truth is the British signed a deal with the devil, and turned over Musa Qala to the Taliban.

We noted in November that this deal had ceded Musa Qala to the Taliban. Tim Lynch, a security contractor operating in Afghanistan, informed us that the al rayah, the black flag of al Qaeda, was flying outside the district center in Musa Qala. An American intelligence source confirmed this account.

The United States has indicated it is preparing forces to retake what the British handed over in Musa Qala.

NATO has also indicated it intends to preempt any potential Taliban spring offensive. Helmand an Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan are of particular concern, and NATO forces have been fighting a steady stream of small scale battles throughout the region over the winter. Pockets of Taliban fighters are killed at the rate of 10 to 50 per engagement, with few Coalition casualties.

This is exactly what NATO and U.S. forces did last year. Despite the media reports of the Taliban fighting an effective offensive throughout the spring summer and fall, the fact is the large majority of the combat operations were initiated by U.S. and NATO forces. Coalition forces launched major operations were launched in Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Kunar, Zabul, Ghazni, Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces to root out Taliban formations and pockets. Over 3,500 of the 4,000 killed in Afghanistan last year were Taliban fighters. Each time the Taliban massed in force against the Coalition forces, they were decimated.

The Taliban and al Qaeda were effective in terror attacks, however. al Qaeda and the Taliban launched a string of suicide attacks in the south and east. The capital of Kabul fell victim to a rash of suicide strike in the late summer and early fall, until the suicide cell was rolled up by Afghan intelligence, and an Afghan general and Pakistani intelligence officer were detained for involvement in running the cell.

As long at the Taliban and al Qaeda maintain the sanctuaries in Quetta and the Northwest Frontier Province, the Afghan government and NATO forces will remain fighting a holding action. All of the offensive actions inside Afghanistan cannot destroy the massive Taliban infrastructure that has been built up over the past several years during the Pakistani government’s neglect of this serious problem.

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



  • Neo-andertal says:

    If you want to get an idea of how remote Musa Qala is use google earth and type in the alternate spelling “Musa Qaleh”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The issue isn’t whether Musa Qala was overrun or not, it’s the Brit felts they could reasonably negotiate with the Taliban, did so, then are surprised when it fails. The Taliban views this as weakness. And rightfully so. I can assure you that after discussions with the NATO commanders in Kandahar last summer, the Taliban is moving up from Pakistan through the deserts of Kandahar and Helmand.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    “The issue isn’t whether Musa Qala was overrun or not, it’s the Brit felts they could reasonably negotiate with the Taliban, did so, then are surprised when it fails.”

  • RTLM says:

    Maybe its a good tactic for getting them to mass in one area. An area way out of the way.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I only wish I could tell you how apoplectic the folks I talked to in the mil/intel world were over this. The Brits created their own policy of accommodating the Taliban, without the approval of ISAF/NATO or the Afghan gov’t.
    People have been saying the same thing about western Pakistan. At least in Afghanistan we can do something about it. But as I outlined above, this wasn’t the plan.

  • Rookie says:

    The British army is doing the same mistakes they did in Basra; negociating “peace” talks following their crazy PC booklet will led to disaster. Iran in much stronger now in Iraq due to their infiltration in the mainly shiite Basra, long time ago.
    They do the same thing in UK, trying to appease the terrorist communities, who openly and in masse support Al-Qaeda. They will never learn you cannot negociate with thugs.
    Pakistan was and it is the main source of terrorism. You cannot trust an “ally” who hits on taliban only before an US official visit into the country and the rest of the time is providing if not support, at least protection of key HVT’s.

  • StormWarning says:

    Hey Bill! Continue to read your work with great interest. Somehow, none of my attempts at trackbacks work, so here is a recent comment/post:
    UPDATED: Peace with Taliban Fails – Afghan Town Falls.
    How anyone could have considered a negotiation with the Taliban to be a reasonable approach is beyond me (similarly, trusting Pakistan is beyond me). Frankly, I have felt that Afghanistan being turned over to NATO was a strategic error. However, from a troop strength and deployment perspective, there was no choice.
    I think that when the Winter is over, we will see the true impact of these ill-conceived negotiations and concessions.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    “I only wish I could tell you how apoplectic the folks I talked to in the mil/intel world were over this. The Brits created their own policy of accommodating the Taliban, without the approval of ISAF/NATO or the Afghan gov’t.”

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    NATO force in Afghanistan, in fact, the combat part of it, is too small to control the whole border with Pakistan. The borderline is too long. NATO can take out any Taliban group, but can not be present everywhere in the same time.
    This is some kind of stalemate situation. Taliban are trying to control the territory. When they come in larger groups, we often read a report about some 100 – 200 Taliban killed, and some region liberated. Then, again, Taliban show up somwhere else. They don’t seem to have shortages in troops and money.
    What about ANA, their progress seems to be extremly slow ?
    I wonder which part of this is all this Al-Qaeda thing, and which part is about Pushtun ethnic situation ?

  • Michael says:

    Thanks for the good discussion Bill and Neo.
    There is a major, fundamental problem in the West today and it is our lack of good details and information coming forward through our Media.
    For whatever reason, our Media downsizes information into 30 second clips and provides fastfood drive-thru nuggets to our ears and eyes.
    The result is most of us do not understand all the details, much less the deeper reasons behind much of this global war, or why negotiations do not work. The MSM is not discussing these deadly important issues at large before the American public.
    This sadly includes our own government’s failure to succinctly address and inform the public.
    Instead, we see one viewpoint, or we see temper tantrums thrown by party schills on each side.
    This nation needs to have a serious dialogue by informed leaders and those who have covered the stories in detail, with expertise and experience and those in actual battles, who have negotiated, failed, and won. It needs to be balanced with differing opinions, but not with attacks against each other. Instead we need to all come together and remind ourselves that our enemy wants all of us dead; Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
    The failure of Britain’s negotiations in these areas of Afghanistan and Southern Iraq need to be highlighted, expounded upon and enter into future decision making processes for America, the West and those nations that join us in the Global War on Terror.
    There is still hope for Iraq if we will inform the public. Some media are waking up, but unfortunately still making large mistakes. BBC4 recently went undercover and found Imams preaching hatred of “infidels”(anyone not believing in Islam) and incitement to violence, plus the link of Wahhabism out of Saudi Arabia. CNN recently did a similar report on UK Islamic Jihad hatred.
    But the reports still fell short in many ways. They treated it like a political issue between our two parties. Because that is what Western societies are familiar with and have grown comfortable with – discussions and debates – between opposing political parties.
    But what both CNN and BBC4 failed to realize, failed to interpret was the Islamic radical Imams are not teaching opposing viewpoints. They’re spreading incitement for takeover of our countries and our ways of life. There is absolutely no compromise in their work as they feed off a directive from their “prophet.”
    This is why negotiations fail. There is no compromise with “Allah” only submission. Non-believers are not respected as equals in the Quran or the Hadiths. CNN and BBC4 failed to show their public audience these truths and instead allowed Islamic Imams to omit these facts.
    Instead of balancing Islamic leaders “moderate” voices with opposing critics views, they simply mouthed the Islamic mouthpieces without any background checking or investigation of their claims. If they would have verified the statements of the Quran with its skeptics, they would have uncovered much deception and hatred within the Quran about “infidels”.
    There is a serious problem in the UK now. They’re in a large state of denial over the hatred within their own country. Americans have not been impacted as much because we are a much larger nation and population. But these views do exist in places like Dearborne, MI.
    This is what we do know. In France, it is even more in the dark. 15,000 cars burned last year amidst rioting and it barely broke the evening news in America. Many European cities have no go areas of unemployed, hate-inspired youth by these radical Islamics. Where the original residents of the cities; for example, Malvo, Sweeden, have moved out in droves due to violence, rape and attacks just for being Sweedish, wearing a dress, or not following Sharia Law. You would never think that the Nordic countries were having problems. But they are, serious problems to the point where they are now rethinking immigration.
    We are in a war of ideas within Western cities under siege and a military war around the world.
    Yet our Western leaders are failing to make this clear out of fear of reprisals from the Middle East. Fear that maybe oil will be cutoff maybe?
    Well, in my opinion, our leaders are then leading us into a pit of hell. The British solution in Afghanistan is a much larger picture of appeasement around the world and within our own countries. This goes far, far deeper than our wars abroad and has longer, severe consequences for the children and grandchildren.
    As we continue to hold hands of backstabbers, the danger grows for our own people, in our own lands. Better we cut off the death culture now and begin to bring in new sources of energy that does not depend upon the black oil of death rotting below the sands of the Middle East.
    We need comprehensive, far-reaching goals that cutoff the cults that produce hate and barbaric societies. We’ve been feeding them life-sustaining money in return for murders, attacks and large scale violence around the world.
    I don’t know about everyone here, but I’ve had enough of it. I want the Iraqis to have freedom. But the truth is Iran, Syria, Egypt, Suadi Arabia and so many other organizations are spreading this disease of hatred around the world. If we do not cutoff the funding for this multi-headed beast, they will continue to murder, destroy and spread hatred.
    The 20% goal was a good start by the President. But I advocate we start a program like our initial challenge to go to the Moon. We recognized a threat by the Soviet Union back then and our President did the right thing.
    He challenged the nation to step up. We need this again. Our President needs to Challenge the nation, us, the American people and he needs to rally us together, to unite us in one cause, to rid this nation as quickly as possible from the oil pit of the Middle East.
    The challenge is really threefold.
    1) Eliminate our dependence on the Middle East
    2) Eliminate the Worlds dependence on the Middle East
    3) Be leaders in technology to sell to the entire world as a result.
    4) Energy Independence in 10 years.
    This is exactly what NASA did in the Moon Challenge. It created the highest amount of technology ever achieved in the world.
    We need to do this again and our President, our Congress needs to step up and announce the challenge.
    I actually wrote the President with this desire several years ago stating that if we did not act now, companies like GM and Ford would suffer. Well, that’s happened. The truth is, this nation needs a reason to come together and stop squabbling with each other.
    True leaders can make great things happen. As much as I agree with freeing Iraqis and going on offense against our enemies, we need a comprehensive attack in all areas. Military, Diplomacy, Finanical, and Technology.
    By achieving technilogical success in the past over the Soviet race to space, we insured our safety. We need to plan the same goals again to overcome our enemy and those whom we think are our friends, but spread hatred behind our backs.
    We will never be rid of oil. But by setting large goals, we can achieve Independence over our enemy and not be blackmailed. This needs to be a nationwide effort, a national goal within a 10 year plan.
    If this President is afraid to set out such lofty goals, then I’m looking for Presidential candidates in 2008 who will.
    We have always been a nation of big ideas, big dreams and anyone can make a difference if we work hard enough. Now we need leaders who remind us of the Can-Do spirit.
    Please do not tell me to go shopping again. Please tell me instead, to get to work on freeing this nation from oil dependence on those that preach hatred against us.

  • Michael says:

    Forgot to preview, “Fourfold” plan.

  • sangell says:

    Michael, I think you are right.
    There is no military solution to the problems
    we have in the region.
    Our troops are doing the best they can but they
    are in an impossible situation. They are in the
    center of Muslimania.
    The Afghan government is corrupt. 5 years on and
    the Afghan army is no larger than it was 3 years
    ago and just as unreliable.
    Muslim armies do not work yet we keep trying to
    train national forces where there is no ‘nation’
    Look at Pakistan, Lebanon, hell even Turkey. The
    national army in each of these nations cannot
    even control the territory it is sovereign over.
    Can we expect to do better in Iraq or Afghanistan?
    Its a fools errand. Saddam couldn’t exercise
    sovereignty over the Kurds and Shia even using
    methods we could never contemplate.
    We are trying to herd cattle when the herd is
    made up of cats. It just won’t work.
    We need a new strategy and Washington doesn’t
    have one.

  • Brigadier Butler negotiated the cease fire at Musa Qala because the alternatives were to retreat or lose most of a regiment. Faced with a shortage of men and equipment, most seriously the lack helicopters, Butler was only 36 hours away from ordering a withdrawal (UK Daily Telegraph, 3/10/07. “Paras almost retreated under Taliban assault”.)
    The blame belongs with the British politicians who, despite repeated warnings from senior officers, sent the army into Afghanistan undermanned and under-equipped. The army is so angry about the mess that two former Chiefs of Staff have gone public with their criticisms.


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