Afghan, ISAF forces kill more than 70 Taliban in Nuristan


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

Afghan commandos and Coalition special operations forces killed more than 70 “insurgents” during an operation in the remote, mountainous province of Nuristan yesterday. Much of the province is under the control of the Taliban and other allied insurgent groups.

The combined forces launched a clearing operation in the villages of Pol-e Rostam and Alwagal in Barg-e-Matal district, the International Security Assistance Forces stated in a press release. Barg-e-Matal is one of six of the eight districts in Nuristan that are under the control of the Taliban, Governor Mohammad Tamim Nuristani said on Sept. 4 [see LWJ report, Governor: Most of Nuristan under Taliban control].

Afghan commandos were attacked by the Taliban immediately after air-assaulting into Pol-e Rostam. Seven insurgents were killed during airstrikes, and another 33 were killed during “multiple engagements” as the operation progressed. The combined force was able to secure the district center.

In the village of Alwagal, the commandos again came under “heavy small arms fire from multiple directions” as they air-assaulted into the area. An additional 30 insurgents are thought to have been killed during heavy fighting.

One Afghan commando was killed during the operation. “Four coalition SOF, one Commando, one interpreter and the team’s military working dog were injured by an insurgent grenade,” ISAF stated.

ISAF stated that the purpose of the operation was to “disrupt insurgent activity and demonstrate the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s ability to place security forces into remote insurgent safe havens.”

Barg-e-Matal and other districts in Nuristan have changed hands between the Afghan government and the Taliban numerous times over the past several years. The Afghan Taliban, aided by the Pakistani Taliban and other groups, have launched repeated attacks against district centers in Nuristan, withdrawing their forces when Afghan and Coalition troops launch counterattacks. Then after the Afghan and Coalition troops withdraw, the Taliban retake control.

The Afghan government and the Coalition have given up on waging counterinsurgency operations in Nuristan and neighboring Kunar. Instead, conventional and special operations forces are launching periodic sweeps to cull the Taliban forces, or “mowing the grass,” as Major General John Campbell, the previous commander of Regional Command East, described it in April.

Nuristan is a Taliban and al Qaeda haven

The Barg-e-Matal district is a known Taliban and al Qaeda transit area to and from the northern Pakistani district of Chitral. In May 2011, the governor of Nuristan claimed that 25 al Qaeda fighters were killed and wounded while crossing the border from Pakistan into Barg-e-Matal.

In addition to the al Qaeda and Taliban presence in the area, large numbers of former Hezb-i-Islami fighters aligned with warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his top battlefield commander Kashmir Khan are also active in Barg-e-Matal. Affiliated with Hezb-i-Islami commanders are criminal elements who dominate the illegal lumber trade and gem mines in the region.

Barg-e-Matal borders the district of Kamdish, which has been effectively under Taliban control since US troops withdrew from combat outposts in the fall of 2009 after an attack by a large Taliban and al Qaeda force.

At the end of March 2011, the Taliban overran the nearby district of Waygal. Afghan police and officials abandoned the district center after hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters attacked from four sides. [See LWJ report, Northeastern Afghan district falls after Taliban assault.] Waygal, or Wanat as it is also known, is said to remain effectively under Taliban control.

In the fall of 2009, 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 with the July announcement of the withdrawal of 33,000 US and thousands of additional NATO troops, the region will not receive additional Coalition forces. Instead, the area is being turned over to Afghan forces.

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.

The withdrawal of US forces from the outposts in Nuristan and Kunar provinces has provided the Taliban and al Qaeda with safe havens in the region. The Taliban are using these new safe havens to stage attacks in the north. The neighboring provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan, particularly the Jurm district, have seen a spike in attacks. In the past, Afghan intelligence officials claimed to have intercepted rogue Pakistani Frontier Corps personnel and Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence directorate agents penetrating Badakhshan from Kunar. The provinces of Badakhshan and Tahkhar had been peaceful up until 2009.

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.

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

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: , ,


  • Soccer says:

    The Taliban deny this happened, and claimed that “as many as 90 US invaders were killed when the terrorist Americans bombed their own positions. They had called in an airstrike, Allah willing, on their own positions by accident and had eliminated themselves from the battlefield, meanwhile Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate also seized 7 police trucks, 2 motorcycles, 3 huge weapon caches, and 1 nightvision goggle set. The mujahideen later had ran into another group of US invaders, killing 15 in face to face fighting while 2 Mujahideen embraced martyrdom (May Allah accept them).
    They also say that “towards the end of the operation, Mujahideen ran into one last group of puppet police in which they killed 43 puppet police and 15 ANA puppets as well as capturing 14 prisoners of war after seriously wounding them. One Mujahid was martyred at the end of the operation (May Allah accept him). Overall, Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate only suffered 3 martyred fighters while one mujahid was slightly injured but is alright now.”
    They deny that Afghan commandos ever came to fight them and they said that they have slaughtered Afghan commandos before, and that they already control 99 percent of Nuristan as we speak.

  • gudien says:

    Let the various Taliban tribes fight among themselves for the area. Isn’t this a grand place for B-52s?

  • James says:

    This is indeed good news. There is no doubt also that actions like these will serve to lower the morale of the Taliban and thus make them more amenable to negogiating more reasonably, if that is even possible, with the legit Afghan authorities.
    Let the mission where our guys were finally able to eliminate bin laden serve as a role model. I say use more and more lightning hit and run attack missions where our guys can eliminate the bad guys (the foreign jihadists) and then just leave.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    I’m no military mastermind and, though I read the Long War Journal almost daily, don’t know much about this war in Afganistan. (No fault of your’s, Bill.) But, it seems to me this is one place where the Taliban and Al qaeda will come out to fight en masse. This, to me, indicates this area has some real strategic value to them. Perhaps, its only, as you say, an infiltration route and nothing more. Whatever it is, they’re willing to fight for it. Their tactics implented in other areas to draw us away worked. Perhaps this is what happens when there are not enough troops in country to fight a war. I’m probably oversimplying but, it seems if the supply lines are interdicted, then fighting elsewhere will be affected. Nevertheless, if this is where the flies are drawn, seems we should eradicate them there. In addition, killing two or three enemy at a time, economically and militarily, doesn’t seem to be a good use of our limited resources. Exception being HVT’s.

  • Neonmeat says:

    The Taliban show they can attack where they like with the recent (arguably unsuccessful) operation against the Embassy in Kabul and ISAF do the same to one of the Talibans centres of operations.
    Looking at the history of this area though it just seems like you clear the rats out and more come scurrying in when you turn your back.
    Good work anyway too all involved.

  • jean says:

    It is not uncommon for Afghans to run to sound of gunfire or helicopters, therefore some of resistance may just be locals with weapons. The HIG/Talib has been very affective in paining the COF and troops from Kabul as invaders. Keep mind that the ANA is heavy populated with Afghans from non Pashtuns areas. In addition, everyone is foreigner in Nuristan, even Nuristanis from other valleys. It

  • wallbangr says:

    “Four coalition SOF, one Commando, one interpreter and the team’s military working dog were injured by an insurgent grenade,” ISAF stated.
    Was this in Alwagal or Pol-E-Rostum?
    Would be interested in knowing how many of the small arms KIA were a result of our operators doing the shooting. Pipe dream, I know. But without the softening up with air strikes and our door kickers leading the way, one wonders how the ANA and their commandos would have fared going it alone. Also, given that they “air-assaulted” into the area (granted, any ground force likely would have faced significant terrain challenges and likely would have telegraphed the attack), that means this kind of operation is predicated upon American support. A good day, to be sure. But a sign that the ANA is ready to “stand up while we stand down” it is not. Of course, Nuristan may never be governable nor as strategically important to the US as other provinces in the country. If the policy with respect to this province is to turn these areas over to Afghan forces, I can see the argument for allowing them to win or lose on their own merits. That said, as a response to the propaganda videos of Taliban cavorting on exercise equipment at since-abandoned COPs, I like that we are keeping them guessing.

  • uuuuu says:

    Soccer at September 17, 2011 10:29 PM ET:
    The Taliban deny this happened
    yes they deny Osama is a terrorists too .

  • mike merlo says:

    This is great news. Whether by design or otherwise who cares Nuristan & Kunar have evolved into convenient ‘kill box(es).’

  • Soccer says:

    Yes but I always read their press releases and they have a different view of the war on terror than the west does (obviously), but I think it is very important to read about what they have to say and their views on this long war.
    And I think it is very interesting, reading their daily operations reports. Here is some excerpts just to show you what I’m talking about:
    8 missiles slam into Bagram Airfield, killing 75 invaders and their puppets, along with the destruction of 5 internal building facilities.
    4 missiles slam into Kandahar airfield, for which the extent of the damages and losses to the enemy is not known at this time.
    Medical helicopters evacuate bodies from Nuristan. American helicopter ambulances have finally evacuated the dead bodies of the soldiers from the Nuristan battle in which they had sustained hundreds of losses in men and materials in this deadly battle in Barg E Mertel District, Nuristan province, September 17th. However, it is worth mentioning that the Americans had completely disregarded the bodies of the puppets and had left them to rot and decompose, perhaps because of fear of imminent Mujahideen attacks or because of apathy to the puppets.
    It is very interesting when NATO announces an operation, and then the Taliban at the same time announce the same operation but give their side of the story, the casualties, etc.

  • gary siebel says:

    Fascinating bit of fluff there, Mr Soccer. Body counts are always so suspect no matter the source. As I recall, in Vietnam, according to body counts, the enemy were wiped out many times over.
    One problem with your story angle, however, is that your style of Islam, like the Nazi’s, not only deliberately suppresses information, as do all governments, but also prevents any other search for the truth. But you can bet, if your (Taliban) claims had credence, there would be plenty of reporters eager to verify. Like crazed bloodhounds (oops — you don’t like or understand dogs) they would pursue it relentlessly for the political embarrassment, as well as career enhancing potential. I anxiously await their discoveries. 90 dead from “friendly fire” would indeed be big news.
    So you see Mr Soccer, until you grasp the concept of freedom of speech, and of the press, you are just another Nazi propagandist, and all your Taliban info is suspect. Like the 8 missiles supposedly shot into Bagram, for which the body count you claim would be unusually high. Body counts never seem to go that high per rocket when they shoot into Israel. But keep sending us those Taliban reports — they make for such interesting reading.

  • Soccer says:

    You need to get your facts straight.
    Bill knows firsthand that I don’t believe what I am pasting here, I am merely relaying it back to the readers here. It is always interesting to get the other side of the story.
    You have just wasted an entire post going off on a useless rant when you didn’t even know the context of which I posted such material in the first place. Good job.
    “So you see Mr Soccer, until you grasp the concept of freedom of speech, and of the press, you are just another Nazi propagandist”
    It’s often hilarious what can happen when someone goes off on a rant without getting all their facts straight first. And just so you know, the Taliban are not “Nazis”, even though I think both are corrupt.

  • Soccer says:

    And yes they don’t like dogs. They claimed they killed 7 dogs today:
    Mujahideen attacked the Shindand airbase early this morning, killing 7 invaders along with 16 puppets and 7 enemy trained dogs. 2 mujahideen embraced martyrdom while the other 8 left the area safely before causing the enemy grave damages and loss of life and materials, besides setting a huge plane on fire and destroying 6 tanks along with 3 bunkers and 2 officers for the invader generals.
    You see Gary, I read these reports on a certain forum, and then paste them back here. I don’t necessary believe them. And by the way Gary, if only you know how much trouble I have gone through in order to resist radical Islamism. “Your style of Islam” is not correct as I am not a Muslim.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Soccer, why don’t you just post the links to the Taliban propaganda sites and we can go there if we wish to engage in their fairy tales.
    What benefit do we accrue being deluged on each thread with your regurgitation of their obvious falsehoods and fantasy?
    Do YOU believe 90 U.S. invaders were killed by Taliban during this operation? If not, what value do you see cutting and pasting these obvious lies here on an increasingly regular basis?

  • Soccer says:

    It is access to freedom of information.
    The reason I have access to such content, is because I knew someone on the Ansar Mujahideen English Forums. I had an argument with him through Facebook, and he invited me to have a full account on the forums and view all the content for myself, such as photos, reports, statements, and videos. I have access to all of their locked content on the forum. And no I cannot post links to their content, they will not let me, and it is a password protected, private forum where you cannot hyperlink to it’s content and you must visit the forum yourself.
    If what I paste is such a problem, then Bill himself would have told me to stop, or he would simply disapprove of my posts when reviewing them. But he has not, so I don’t see any problem with what I’m doing.
    I find the reports and statements extremely interesting, and they provide a fresh view of what the other side thinks and believes. It does not mean I believe, or agree with what they say. This is the Internet, and all types of information is out there, including Jihadist propaganda, like it or not, so it’s best to study and take what we can from it.
    Oh and for the record, no I do not believe 90 US soldiers were killed in Nuristan, otherwise I would’ve said so in the first place.
    “What benefit do we accrue being deluged on each thread with your regurgitation of their obvious falsehoods and fantasy?”
    Like I said before, your statements of confrontation do not mean much to me. I am simply re-pasting them for informational purposes, if Bill has a problem with it then they wouldn’t have been approved, plain and simple. I’m not breaking any rules.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram