ISAF kills Taliban commander in airstrike in northern Helmand

The International Security Assistance Force has confirmed that a second Taliban commander was killed in a mid-November airstrike on a Taliban command and control center in Kajaki, a district in northern Helmand province that has seen an increase in ISAF activity over the past several weeks.

ISAF confirmed today that Noor Mohammad was killed in the Nov. 20 airstrike that also killed Mullah Abdul Qayoum, the Taliban’s shadow governor for the district of Sangin and overall military commander in northern Helmand, along with 10 other Taliban fighters. Qayoum commanded an estimated 20 to 25 cells consisting of about 30 to 50 Taliban fighters, or an estimated 600 to 800 fighters total, ISAF told The Long War Journal.

Mohammed “was an improvised explosive device facilitator who planned, coordinated and executed numerous IED attacks” against ISAF and Afghan forces. “He was critical to the procurement of IED materials and subsequent construction of IEDs in Sangin district,” and served under the command of Qayoum.

ISAF and Afghan forces have also conducted three other operations in Kajaki over the past month. Yesterday, ISAF and Afghan special operations forces targeted a Taliban leader who aids in suicide and IED attacks in northern Helmand. “The Taliban leader is involved in the facilitation of suicide bombers and is an expert in the construction of improvised explosive devices, suicide vests and other explosive components,” ISAF stated in a press release. An undisclosed number of Taliban fighters were killed and captured after opening fire on the ISAF and Afghan assault force.

In the first week of November, ISAF and Afghan troops conducted a multi-day clearing operation in Kajaki that resulted in an estimated 10 Taliban fighters killed. The combined forces targeted “enemy safe havens in Helmand province, where Taliban leaders use villages throughout the area to conduct operational planning and prepare for attacks.”

And on Nov. 4, in a rare show of airpower, seven USMC F/A-18’s blitzed “21 known enemy firing points and weapons caches” near the Kajaki Dam. The fighter-bombers dropped 14,000 pounds of ordnance on the targets, killing 14 Taliban fighters.

The district of Kajaki has vexed ISAF for years. The Kajaki Dam is a vital resource in need of maintenance and upgrading to provide electricity to southern Afghanistan. But the Taliban have kept the dam under a virtual siege, cutting off key roads and ambushing security forces and supply convoys. Past ISAF operations to clear the Taliban from Kajaki have failed, while the fighting and attacks have halted major upgrades. Meanwhile the Taliban have hijacked power lines from the dam and charged Afghans for the use of electricity.

Kajaki has become a fallback position for the Taliban as ISAF and Afghan forces press operations in the northern and central districts of Now Zad, Nad Ali, Musa Qala, and Sangin. The districts of Baghran and Washir remain Taliban havens.

The Taliban and al Qaeda are known to have operated training camps in Baghran. At these camps, fighters were trained in suicide tactics, IED emplacement, and small unit tactics.

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



  • Ron Pappalardo says:

    This is a significant step forward step for ISAF, isn’t it? Removing the Kajaki Dam from Taliban control cuts off a major source of income from them, and opens the way for a more reliable stream of electric power to the area. Economic development could not move forward as long as the Taliban controlled this vital resource. Isn’t this dam the major source of power for Kandahar and Helmand provinces?

  • kp says:

    Quote: “The fighter-bombers dropped 14,000 pounds of ordnance on the targets, killing 14 Taliban fighters.”

    That seems like a bit of sledgehammer to crack a nut. Were we expecting more Taliban to be present at the 21 sites (that’s less than 1 dead Taliban per site though one might not expect the weapons caches to be manned and the amount of materiel lost might be worth the effort).


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