Flashpoint Afghanistan: Musa Qala


Helmand province.

Over the past week, Coalition forces have been engaged in heavy fighting near Regay village in Musa Qala district, resulting in the deaths of dozens of Taliban who have been attacking Coalition patrols daily. Located 14 miles south of the city of Musa Qala, Regay saw heavy fighting break out August 25th when a joint Afghan-US Special Forces patrol came under attack and spent the night fighting off the Taliban. The next day, the fighting continued after the patrol was engaged from reinforced positions again, this time by extremists from inside several compounds lined with trenches.

Following the battle, that left more than 20 Taliban dead, a large heroin-producing facility was uncovered. Inside troops found dozens of 50-gallon barrels of chemicals as well as the infrastructure needed to complete the drug-making process. Later that day, after destroying the lab, the patrol was attacked again by well-entrenched Taliban forces using small-arms and mortar fire. The attack was successfully defended, ending in the deaths of an undisclosed number of Taliban.

Just north of Regay, and for the fourth time in two days, the same patrol was again attacked from multiple compounds by entrenched fighters. Coalition forces, using artillery and small arms, fought off the initial ambush, and then counterattacked the compounds, killing a dozen fighters. Once inside, troops killed three more Taliban while clearing a trench/bunker system.

The attacks on this one combat patrol were just the beginning of a long week that resulted in several significant clashes leaving scores of Taliban defenders dead.

August 29: Just three miles from the discovery of the first heroin lab, Coalition forces destroyed a second large lab following a brief fight with Taliban defenders.

August 30: In the same vicinity as the previous day’s attack, Afghan National Security troops supported by US advisors were attacked from reinforced positions along the Musa Qala River. During this firefight, Coalition forces used close air support to defeat the attack, killing more than 15 Taliban fighters.

August 30: A NATO airstrike killed Mullah Berader in Sarwan Qala — between the districts of Sangin and Musa Qala. Berader served on the Taliban Shura Majlis, or executive council, up until his death as well as served as a senior commander in southern Afghanistan.

August 31: Auxiliary Police, again advised by Coalition forces, were attacked using small arms, mortars, and RPGs, this time from within the town of Regay itself. Close air support was again used, killing nearly two dozen suspected Taliban fighters. The same day, south of Regay and near the scene of the opening battle a week before, Afghan National Army soldiers and their Coalition advisors were clearing both sides of the Musa Qala riverbank when they were attacked. Coalition forces used small arms and fixed wing strafing runs to kill an undisclosed number of fighters. Farther down river, yet another joint patrol came under attack from a group of compounds linked by trenches. In the following battle, which included airstrikes, seven Taliban fighters were confirmed killed.

The coalition openly talks about Musa Qala as a region in control of the Taliban, but have stayed away from large scale confrontations with fighters there since coalition troops left the town center following months of some the heaviest fighting seen during the past five years.

For the British and the Danes, Musa Qala will be a place talked about for generations after a platoon of British Special Forces fought off daily assaults for 52 days before finally being relieved. After another two months of fighting, the coalition eventually withdrew, pulling out of the city center in October 2006. Soon after, a deal was struck with the Taliban for both sides to pull out, leaving control of the area in the hands of tribal elders. That peace was shattered in February 2007 when US airstrikes killed a prominent Taliban commander, prompting Taliban forces to once again seize the town by force. They have been there ever since.

The Coalition believes the area acts as a resupply point for extremists around the region as well as a financial hub for the Taliban who use the sales of heroin and opium to fund their movement.



  • Rob says:

    Success in Afghanistan will need to include a smart, effective anti-drug effort. It will have to include a method of paying the farmers not to grow poppy. We have not seen or heard much about this.
    But before dealing with the farmers the Taliban must be confronted.
    When I was there visiting in 2005, the US military was saying in effect ‘if you are smart, you will clean up the drugs (this was around Kabul)now, it is not our responsibility — yet’.
    Now the Taliban has involved itself deeply in the drug trade and is being struck militarily. This may be the beginning of the real anti-narcotic effort.
    The message I took away from the fighting at Musa Qaala was, ‘use the Taliban to protect your drugs and you will both be smashed’.
    Also note that the troops that started the fighting were Afghan Army and US Special Forces. They were patrolling, basically looking for trouble and they dealt with it when they found it. Looks like the Afghan Army is getting better.

  • Neo says:

    The problem is I’m not sure if anyone knows what it would take to put together an effective anti-drug effort in the Helmand river valley. The people who control and grow opium and the Teliban are one in the same to a large degree. This is isolated country even by Afghani standards and has been hostile long before the Teliban or even the Soviets came along. As part of current efforts the British have been trying to cultivate a relationship with the elders of many of the villages. I have the idea that many of these relationships exist only as long as heavy ordinance is pointed at these villagers heads. Please understand that I’m not generalizing to all Afghani’s. This area was hostile to rest o Afghanistan and controlled by warlords long before real outsiders came along. On top of that they have been hardened by constant conflict and have intermarried with Arabs who share similar cultural attitudes. The Helmand valley is similar to Pakistan’s tribal regions in this respect.
    Unfortunately, the economics of growing poppies isn’t the only thing in play here. These people are extremely chauvinistic in their views of the outside world. The very idea that any culture other than their own could have any intrinsic worth whatsoever, amuses them. The fact that heroin destroys the lives of young people around the world isn’t of consequence to them. What does it matter to them what path to hell an infidel takes.
    Economically based programs for drug eradication work best in areas less complicated by entrenched hostility. These Pashto highlanders are at the violent extreme. They make Shining Path and FARC look like a bunch of Johnny-come-latelys. That’s also what makes this place so attractive to Bin Laden and Co.

  • Mike says:

    What do you guys make of the NYT article today headlined ‘Afghan police are set back as Taliban adapt’. It’s here:
    What few facts the story contains don’t seem to stand up the headline, and the story doesn’t square with what I’ve been getting from The Fourth Rail and elsewhere (I make it at least 300 Taliban killed in the past week).
    There is certainly much work still to be done, but I can’t helping feeling the NYT is going looking for bad news.

  • David Tate says:

    My take on the NYT article is that it’s a pretty good article and has a lot of valid points. My problem with it is that it doesn’t present the full picture, which includes news like I’ve posted below:
    Suspected insurgents headquarters destroyed southwest of Kandahar City
    BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -Afghan National Security Forces, advised by Coalition Forces, conducted a cordon and search operation of an insurgent headquarters southwest of Kandahar City, Afghanistan, early this morning.
    Credible intelligence led the ANSF and Coalition forces to two compounds in Ashoqeh Village, 17 kilometers (10.2 miles) southwest of Kandahar City. Intelligence suggested that the compounds, comprised of seven buildings, contained multiple insurgent leaders responsible for the deaths of Afghans and Coalition forces during IED attacks and ambushes along Highway 1, west of Sanjaray. One of the insurgents is suspected of being a Taliban leader who has facilitated IED related attacks against ANSF and Coalition forces in the Kandahar City area.
    This area was the scene of ISAF Operation Medusa last year. Operation Medusa cleared insurgents from the villages south and west of Kandahar City. Local residents had been seen leaving the area for the last few weeks and intelligence has suggested that insurgent commanders were attempting to reestablish their control in the area.
    The cordon and search operation last night started with ANSF attempting to search the first of the two compounds. Insurgents attacked the ANSF-led force with small-arms and machine gun fire as they prepared to enter the first compound. ANSF and Coalition forces returned fire and called for Coalition close air support. An initial assessment revealed that 11 insurgents were killed in this compound from both small-arms fire and the close air support. Also found in the compound was bomb making material, including TNT, several heavy machine guns, an RPG and rounds, small arms ammunition and three video cameras. In addition, during the initial engagement a suicide bomber blew himself up, causing no ANSF or Coalition injuries.
    The ground force then moved toward the second compound, approximately 70 meters (210 feet) to the west, when they were engaged again by machine gun fire. Because of the volume of fire from this compound, the ground forces directed close air support to engage the compound. Massive secondary explosions were observed after the aircraft engaged the compound. Fourteen enemy fighters were estimated killed in the second compound. A total of 25 insurgents were estimated killed during the course of the evening’s operations.
    No non-combatants were reported killed or wounded during this engagement. The ground forces also reported no non-combatant activity prior to beginning their operation.
    “The death of these enemies of peace and stability, and the destruction of their infrastructure, will disrupt the current assassination and terror campaign the insurgents are conducting against the IRoA government and Coalition forces in Kandahar City,”

  • David m says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 09/04/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram