Northeastern Afghan district falls after Taliban assault

The Taliban overran a district in the northeastern Afghan province of Nuristan after launching a massed assault on a police center.

A large Taliban force attacked the Waygal district center in Nuristan earlier today and drove out the Afghan police forces defending the town. Afghan officials put the size of the Taliban forces at more than 300 fighters, while the Taliban, in a press release on its website, the Voice of Jihad, claimed that 90 fighters carried out the attack.

The provincial chief of police, Shamsul Rahman Nuristani, claimed that police withdrew from the district and suffered no casualties, but the Taliban claimed that 13 policemen were captured and a large weapons cache was seized during the raid.

“Mujahideen attacked the district headquarter from four directions using heavy and small arms fire that continued for more than an hour ending up capturing more than 13 policemen besides a large amount of ammo and arms being seized by Mujahideen from the possession of the enemies including 25 Kalashnikov rifles, 4 heavy machine guns and two rocket launchers with three boxes of heavy rocket and heavy arms ammo with more than 25 military and supply vehicles,” the Taliban press release claimed.

The Taliban have become increasingly bold in the northeast. Just two days ago, the Taliban kidnapped more than 40 Afghan men from Nuristan who attempted to join the police in Kunar province. The Taliban have since released 14 of the Afghan men.

No US or ISAF forces are based in Nuristan’s Waygal district, which is also known as Wanat, Want, and Want Waygal. US troops withdrew from the district in the summer of 2008 after a deadly assault by a joint force of 200-400 fighters made up from the Taliban, Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and al Qaeda’s Shadow Army assaulted a small combat outpost as it was being built. The daylong firefight pitted the 48 US and 24 Afghan troops against the large Taliban and al Qaeda force. During the fierce battle, 9 US soldiers and between 20 to 50 enemy fighters were killed, and the assault force briefly entered the outer perimeter of the compound before being repelled.

US troops also withdrew from combat outposts in the Nuristan district of Kamdish after a major assault that nearly led to the overrunning an outpost by the Taliban. Afghan forces have also been put in charge of the district of Barg-i-Matal; that district exchanged hands between Afghan and Taliban forces several times last summer.

Last fall, ISAF began withdrawing forces from remote districts in Nuristan and neighboring Kunar province as part of its new counterinsurgency plan that emphasizes securing major population centers over rural areas. According to ISAF commanders, the remote provinces of Nuristan and Kunar will be dealt with after more strategic regions in the south, east, and north have been addressed. But ISAF commanders have since said that Afghan soldiers and police will be relied upon to secure the remote provinces.

But the US withdrawal from outposts in Nuristan and Kunar has also provided the Taliban with major propaganda victories. The Taliban have released tapes showing large-scale assaults on the US outposts followed by scenes of the Taliban occupying the abandoned bases. Weapons and ammunition that had been hastily abandoned by US and Afghan forces were displayed by the Taliban in the tapes.

The outposts in Nuristan and Kunar were initially created in 2006 as part of a plan to establish a string of bases to interdict Taliban fighters and supplies moving across the border from Pakistan. But the plan was not completed, because US forces were diverted to the south in Kandahar after the Taliban began launching increasingly sophisticated attacks.

Today’s assault on the Waygal district center was likely launched by Taliban leader Dost Mohammed, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Nuristan province. Elements from the Shadow Army, under the command of Qari Zia Rahman, al Qaeda’s top commander in Nuristan and Kunar provinces, may also have fought with Dost’s forces, which are considered able and effective fighters in their own right.

Dost maintains close links to senior al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban leaders, such as Faqir Mohammed in Bajaur, just across the border. “He’s an operator, a big, big commander for Nuristan, and has lots of resources,” a US expert who advises the US government on the Taliban told The Long War Journal in 2009.

Dost has occasionally run afoul of the decisions made by the Taliban’s executive council, or the Shura Majlis, over leadership decisions in the region.

“In 2007, Dost Mohammed was against the Quetta Shura appointment of Maulvi Abdul Kabir, a Zadran Pashtun Taliban leader with strong links to [Mullah] Omar, as the Taliban’s Eastern Zone Commander,” the US expert, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “Dost has always enjoyed semi-autonomy control over his area of operations and his own resources in Nuristan.”

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

Tags: , ,


  • ArneFufkin says:

    Hopefully we’ll send some F-18s and AH-64s to their market square celebration. If there is an actual market square in the middle of that desolate nothingness that is.
    This is no big deal in my opinion. The Talibs are getting cooked all over the Afghan landscape right now. Let them propagandize this “victory” if they wish.

  • crusader says:

    this proves the fearsome enemy that the taliban is…
    once the coalition forces are gone they will launch an attack against the remaining forces in afghanistan and eventually win just like they did before 2001…

  • David Eliezer says:

    Can we re-establish the small outposts like in Wanat, but now give them 24-hour coverage by armed UAVs?
    It seemed to me like we hung those guys out to dry
    there, and that the whole thing would have been easily solved with significant air support, which is more plentiful nowadays.
    Am I right?

  • Rene says:

    deal with them like our Native American Indians, tribal, raiders, revenge, kidnapping girls and boys, etc. blood money. adobe houses/towns, herders, semi-nomadic.
    at their worst with modern guns and tech and their best, traditions that go beyond or pre-date I-slam.
    Might be interesting to gift a few with teepees, though they hardly have enough trees for that.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @crusader: this proves the fearsome enemy that the taliban is…
    once the coalition forces are gone they will launch an attack against the remaining forces in afghanistan and eventually win just like they did before 2001…
    Like I said, let the enemy propagandize this victory if they wish

  • Mr T says:

    The fearsome enemy the Taliban is..
    Yeah, they go in after the soldiers leave and kill unarmed, innocent civilians and terrorize children. Then they run away and hide in Pakistan. Pretty fearsome all right.

  • Gerry says:

    Dost is an operator and his reputaion precedes him. The pullout of ISAF has made it possible for him to reclaim the territory as well as seek redress from Karzai, who is the deal maker in Kabul. Its a win-win for Dost, A lose-lose for the ISAF, and a win-win for Karzai.

  • sports says:

    this proves the fearsome enemy that the taliban is…
    You are delusional. History is not on the bug-eyed talibs side.

  • James says:

    Re: Fearsome enemy…
    It’s too easy to armchair quarterback these engagements. But there seems to be some missing element of 1. intel and 2. communications. Air power should be readily available in these situations and it seems, would be effective if used when the Taliban are either staging for attacks or engaged in them. If we don’t have boots on the ground in Nuristan we really should have planes constantly in the air denying the Taliban an opportunity rest, move, stage, or attack in groups as large as this report claims. Btw, it’s a mistake to think they are cowards. They are clever, committed, clearly willing to fight, and a danger until they are either defeated or brought to the peace table.

  • gerald says:

    An ANSF force has to go in and take it back. They really need to show the Talibs that they can stand up to them unassisted. ISAF air power can help,but the ground pounding has to be done by Afghans.

  • Nic says:

    ISAF owns the clock, the Taliban owns the time.

  • Grim says:

    @ David
    There probably are not enough assets to give them continuous coverage. Plus the price tag just to have one little are covered would be absurd. Also the weather in that region would not permit coverage like that. Air support in that region is simply a challenge for us and a contributing factor as to why the area is so bad. Despite those problems, a solution needs to be found aside from just letting them have the terrain.

  • sports says:

    I think it’s important to not worry about the outposts and remain focused on building schools and protecting the citizens in areas where the ISAF has more control.
    The Taliban remind me of how the Vikings plundering of Europe prolonged the Dark Ages. However, overtime (several generations) people became educated, developed the ability to reason, learned how to protect themselves and sent the the Vikings packing. The Vikings who remainded assimulated into the societies.
    That is what I think will eventually happen in Afghanistan. The bottom line is that eventually there will be to many educated Afghans for the Taliban to terminate without getting themselves into trouble with society and it’s laws.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @nic: ISAF owns the clock, the Taliban owns the time.
    That platitude doesn’t comport with the reality on the ground from all reports. The Taliban are being routed in Kandahar and Helmand and Afghan security, economic and poilitical institutions grow stronger, albeit slowly, with each day.

  • Fishing Junkie says:

    ArneFufkin has shown to be upbeat, but their assessment is not off the mark. I even read an article yesterday, that Bill linked to in the news feed, showing how the Taliban are being defeated in FATA, Afghanistan, and even Quetta where they have their main sanctuary. 3 top Taliban commanders have been killed while a 4th was seriously injured there, all of them targeted for assassination.
    The CIA and JSOC and the US intelligence agencies have had enough, and special forces raids are POUNDING the Taliban all over Afghanistan, and assassination hit squad teams are killing them in Quetta and driving them more underground as we speak. Despite what you may think of the Afghan war, the hard truth is that it sucks right now to be a Talib or aspiring jihadi in Central/South Asia. They are being smashed and whenever you hear them issuing a public audio/video rant about drones, or operations, or raids, you know we are doing the job correctly.
    As for education, healthcare, etc, “sports” has got the idea. Eventually, through enough war, extremists being killed/captured, and enough assistance, people in Afghanistan and the larger region will decide they have had enough of this miserable existence and will turn to progression and peace as a way forward. It happened in Europe and South America, and even in North America. With time, it can happen there too.

  • kp says:

    The Viking analogy is not a good one: the Viking raided at first but eventually they “invaded” by arriving setting up farms then trading and marrying with the locals. The Vikings big problem was lack of land in Scandanavia.

    I don’t see the Taliban doing this.

  • crusader says:

    yes indeed let them propagandize this victory if they wish…
    with so many things against them it is astonishing to see that they have still a high moral.
    when the international force have left afg they will continue fighting and eventually win…
    who would stop them? the ANA? hahahaah!

  • Faluoghi says:

    I’m glad crusader finally came out and just said it… i haven’t trusted his/her “questions” or comments since I’ve been reading these informative posts…

  • James says:

    Crusader, (what a misnomer of a screen name that is), quit being a cheerleader for the taliban and their AQ masters and thugs.
    I think you’ve chosen the wrong forum for that.

  • crusader says:

    Faluoghi: i am for real,a man from the states.
    i feel that i am not cheering on any talibs…
    As an american i don’t want the taliban to win or any other hostile group
    HOWEVER I am sick or tired of the mistreatment and bullying of men in the american society.
    i am tired of hearing men going to prison for extremely long times for hurting a woman.
    sometimes i like the talibs out of bitter anger
    i am indeed grumpy at times but i am no supporter of our enemies…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram