Taliban take control of district in Nuristan


Map of Afghanistan’s provinces. Click map to view larger image.

The Taliban have seized control of a district in the northeastern province of Nuristan after several days of heavy fighting.

Afghan police have abandoned the district center of Barg-e-Matal as fighting took place in the main town, Afghan political and police officials said. The Taliban now claim they are in control of the district and have boasted that their forces have raised the Taliban banner over the district center.

Afghan officials maintain they conducted a “tactical retreat” today from the district center in Barg-e-Matal after the fighting threatened nearby civilians.

“Since the district headquarters is inside the village in a crowded location we had to make a tactical retreat to avoid casualties to civilians” Jamaludin Badr, the governor of Nuristan, told AFP.

The Taliban control key facilities in Barg-e-Matal, said Mohammad Gul Himat, an Afghan border police commander. “Taliban have control over their radio facility which means Taliban have captured the district,” Himat told AFP.

The fate of the Afghan policemen defending the district center is not known. It is unclear if they were killed, captured, or fled the scene of the fighting.

The Taliban issued two releases on the fighting in Nuristan on its website, Voice of Jihad. On the website, the Taliban claimed to have “seized complete control of the district” and “captured four military posts blocking off all the routes to the district center.” Both releases included crudely photoshopped images of a white Taliban flag flying over a fighting position built by US forces.

The clashes in Barg-e-Matal began on May 25, when a large Taliban force estimated at between 300 to 500 fighters attacked the district center. Afghan police, backed by a lashkar, or militia of local Nuristani tribesmen, fought back. US air support was called in to aid in the fighting against the Taliban, but no US ground forces have been reported to have engaged in fighting in the area.

Afghan officials claimed that Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Qari Fazlullah led the initial assault in Barg-e-Matal, and later claimed he was killed. But Mullah Munibullah, the Taliban’s military commander for Nuristan, denied that Fazlullah led the attack and said he was not killed in the fighting. Munibullah said only Afghan Taliban were involved in the fighting.

But General Qaseem Payman, the provincial police chief for Nuristan, insisted that “a large number of Pakistani and Chechen rebels” were seen fighting in Nuristan. And in the past, Munibullah has admitted to working closely with al Qaeda and other South and Central Asian jihadist groups.

Payman said the Taliban suffered heavy losses in the battle for Barg-e-Matal despite their success in overrunning the district center.

“In the last one week battle between our forces and the Taliban, two policemen were killed and few others were wounded, but the Taliban suffered heavy casualties,” Payman told Quqnoos. “Around forty-five Taliban fighters were killed and dozens of others were wounded.”

The Barg-e-Matal district is a known Taliban transit area to and from the northern Pakistani district of Chitral. Last summer, the Taliban took control of Barg-e-Matal for several months after a similar attack. US and Afghan forces were deployed to the region to help local Nuristanis eject the Taliban, but the forces later withdrew.

Barg-e-Matal borders the district of Kamdish, which is under Taliban control since US forces withdrew from combat outposts last fall after an attack by a large Taliban and al Qaeda force.

Previous LWJ reports on the ongoing fighting in Barg-e-Matal:

May 28, 2010: “Nuristani Taliban commander denies Fazlullah killed”

May 27, 2010: “Mullah Fazlullah reported killed in Afghanistan”

May 26, 2010: “Pakistani Taliban assault district center in Nuristan”

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

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  • Hatim says:

    NATO’s failures in Afghanistan have lead to an unstable Pakistan. They need to send 500,000 troops to the country to actually secure it long term. They have stirred the hornets nest and they are responsible for my safety in Pakistan.

  • Paul says:

    Not a good sign when we pull out of afghan this will happen more often especially with an enemy state next door!

  • James says:

    For the good Afghans, they stood bravely against overwhelming force. An Afghan version of the Alamo.
    I wish that I was there advising them because I would have had them scrawl on the walls of those military outposts: “WE SHALL RETURN ! ! ! ”

  • Jimmy says:

    Until Pakistan Army-ISI shine, taliban rays will continue to darken Afghanistan….
    (pun intended)

  • Zeissa says:

    Hatim, you’re responsible for supporting Pakistan and ISI and forcing us to help clean your bum. Your denial of your responsibilities and wrongdoings are the crucibles of your nation and why your safety will continue to suck.

  • Zeissa says:

    They’ll take it back soon I think, it’ll be easy enough and worth it in terms of PR and dead enemies.

  • Render says:

    How would one go about feeding and supplying 500,000 NATO troops inside of landlocked Afghanistan?
    This assuming that NATO, including the U.S., actually had 500,000 combat troops. They do not.
    Without Iranian interference and Pakistani safe havens for genocidal terrorist thugs, Afghanistan can be secured with less then 20,000 troops. 2001-06 is historical and very well documented proof of that.
    Pakistan, oddly enough, is actually in a position where they could negotiate a deal with India that could guarantee the security of Pakistans eastern border for generations to come while freeing up the Pak military to bring the force of law to the lawless FATA.
    There are your 500,000 troops and that is where they are needed.
    But none of that will ever happen, will it?

  • Marlin says:

    Neither the ISAF nor the locals seem to have given up entirely on regaining control of Barg-e Matal.

    ISAF supported Afghan National Security Force operations in Nuristan province by delivering precision-guided airstrikes on known insurgent locations near Barg-e Matal early Monday.
    The airstrikes were requested by local officials and ANSF commanders. Extreme care was given to validating the targets, which were under surveillance for an extended period of time.
    The operation was launched in response to significant insurgent activity in the area during the previous week. The precision strikes were designed to degrade enemy positions, command and control, and staging/caches sites in the area.

    DVIDS: Insurgents Targeted With Precision Airstrikes in Barg-e Matal

  • Nic says:

    To continue what Render has started, the logic of “the enemy of your enemy is your friend” should be strongly considered by India and Pakistan. The Talib endanger the security and economy of Pakistan. The attacks on India should force India and Pakistan closer together because they are fighting a common enemy. Freeing Pak troops from duty on the India-Pakistan border could be the “magic bullet” that this situation needs. Now is the time for India and Pakistan to take the great leap of faith.

  • My2cents says:

    The Taliban nipped across the border from Pakistan to attack a border district for a propaganda victory. And as soon as they start losing they will jump back over the border to Pakistan to avoid pursuit.
    It would be counterproductive to commit NATO troops to this dust-up as long as it appears that the locals will win because it will make it appear that we consider them weak. Likewise, the Taliban will immediately retreat if NATO appears to avoid a decisive engagement.
    If Pakistan is so concerned about a ‘NATO failure’ to destroy the Taliban, how about granting them the right to cross the border while in ‘hot pursuit’ to force an engagement? Of course, Pakistan will never accept that because it would show the world that they cannot, or refuse to, control the border areas.

  • T Ruth says:

    Pakistan IS the hornet’s nest, admittedly along with a large part of Afghanistan. The queen bees originate from Pakistan and many if not most are still nested there.
    They were created by the Pak State, originally as a weapon against India and subsequently against the USSR and thereafter Afghanistan, until they decided in their ambition to turn against their Masters ie Pakistan.
    Grant you that America aided in the process as did, and does, Saudi Arabia (see article link below), your major mutual ally. The authoritarian regime of China has also not engaged Pakistan responsibly and in fact helped up the ante to a nuclear level. So you are tangled up in red.
    The hornets nest did not just fall from the blue. It took a lot of very deliberate planning and execution with a powerful thrust of political, moral, technological and financial support. Only what was supposed to be your regime’s grand plan for your security has and is backfiring very, very badly. You will stay there until you and your people can see it to point the finger at yourselves.

  • Marlin says:

    The ISAF and Afghan forces regain control of Barg-e Matal prior to the peace jirga in Kabul.

    U.S. helicopters flew Afghan troops into a remote district overrun by the Taliban and recaptured the main town Tuesday without firing a shot, military officials said.
    A unit of about 200 elite Afghan troops landed in Barg-e-Matal district of Nuristan province before dawn in an assault backed by U.S. helicopters and a handful of American advisers, U.S. officers familiar with the operation told The Associated Press.
    They recaptured the main town in the region without shooting and no one was harmed, NATO said in a statement, though the operation was still continuing and was expected to last a few days. Taliban fighters were believed to have left the town and may have taken positions elsewhere in the valley.

    Associated Press: US helicopters fly Afghan troops to recapture mountain district from Taliban

  • T Ruth says:

    Nic, have circumstances forced the US “and Pakistan closer together because they are fighting a common enemy”?
    If Islamabad were merely the capital of Pakistan, that would be alright. But no, Islamabad is also the abode of Islam and with the 21st century revivalist movement it is one of the intended capitals of global Islam. Which is why their citizens aren’t exactly crying out for their Army to do the “right” thing, despite being battered in the streets, in their bazaars, in their mosques.
    The India border issue is just an excuse. India has never fired the first bullet and she is not expansionist. Why should she sign away her rights to keep her powder dry? Anyhow, don’t the Pakistanis have a million man army, backed up by a nuclear deterrent and if need be US forces?
    On the other hand, Pakistan has its own issues with the US which are independent of India, eg the US’s commitment to AfPak and its uninspiring military record in Afghanistan (not all can be blamed on Pakistan), with this particular report as an example.
    India is arguably the only country in South Asia which has the crediblity of doing the “right” thing, despite the odds. It makes sense for her to first witness the US and Pakistan sort out their own issues, all of which are independent of India before taking any naive leaps of faith.

  • bard207 says:


    NATO’s failures in Afghanistan have lead to an unstable
    Pakistan. They need to send 500,000 troops to the country to actually secure it long term. They have stirred the hornets nest and they are responsible for my safety in Pakistan.
    Mustering up 500,00 combat troops to go into Pakistan won’t be enough to cover a country of 170 – 180 million people.
    If the PA stayed out of the way and in their barracks, then perhaps a concentrated force of 50,000 would be enough to knock down some troublesome hotspots in Pakistan.

  • chris says:

    Interesting to hear Afghan police abandoned Barg-e-Matal after days of fighting. If i were a fortune teller, i would have guess this would happen…


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