Governor: Most of Nuristan under Taliban control


Afghan intelligence and security forces secure the scene of a downed Afghan National Army helicopter that crashed in the Parun district, Nuristan province on May 10, 2011. Source: Los Angeles Times

The Taliban now control six of the eight districts in Nuristan, according to the newly reinstated governor of the remote province, which lies in the rugged and inhospitable mountain ranges of northeastern Afghanistan.

Governor Mohammad Tamim Nuristani recently told Pajhwok Afghan News that the six districts under Taliban control are Barg-e-Matal, Kamdesh, Waigal, Mandol, Doab, and parts of Noorguram. This leaves only the provincial capital of Parun and its southerly adjacent district of Wama in the Afghan government’s control.

Security in greater Nuristan province has proved elusive since US forces built an initial forward operating base in the Kamdesh district in 2006. Development and reconstruction efforts in the province have been stalled by insecurity, logistical challenges posed by the terrain and climate, lack of infrastructure to move heavy equipment, and local government inefficiencies.

Governor Nuristani revealed that only six of 800 development projects approved two years ago have been completed; the rest have been stalled or canceled due to insecurity. In August, Nuristani replaced the longstanding governor of Nuristan, Jamaluddin Badr. Nuristani, a well known, educated, and respected elder from Nuristan, previously served as the province’s governor between 2005 until he was sacked in July 2008.

The effort to pacify the rugged countryside has been hard fought, including some of the most ferocious battles US forces have engaged in throughout the 10-year war in Afghanistan. On July 13, 2008 up to 200 Taliban guerrillas attacked a US patrol in the village of Wanat in the Waigal district, killing nine soldiers and injuring dozens of others. On Oct. 3, 2009 more than 350 Taliban fighters laid siege against US soldiers and Afghan police at Camp Keating (Kamdesh) in Nuristan. The attack completely destroyed the base, and eight US soldiers died defending it. At least seven Afghan security personnel were killed, and upwards of 100 militants were killed by US air strikes against their positions.

Just a few days after the attack on Camp Keating, US forces pulled out of two main bases and several small outposts in Nuristan under a plan by General Stanley McChrystal to relocate forces to population centers and other districts viewed as critical. Following the hasty US exit from Nuristan, Taliban militants quickly overran the former military outposts and soon established a functioning government structure in several of Nuristan’s more remote district capitals.

In addition to the Taliban, several regional mahaz (fronts) also operate in the province, including Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), al Qaeda, and Jama’at al-Daw’a ila al-Sunnah of Afghanistan. Governor Nuristani has indicated that both Jaish-i-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba of Pakistan are also active in the province.

Attacks on both sides of the border are directed by Qari Zai Rahman, the dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda leader who operates in Pakistan’s tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand, as well as in Afghanistan’s provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. Qari Zia leads forces in al Qaeda’s Lashkar-al-Zil, or Shadow Army [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army’ for more details].

The Taliban have stepped up their attacks throughout the province, even before the Taliban summer offensive began on May 30. The Taliban launched a series of major attacks against Barg-e-Matal, Kamdesh, and Waigal districts, and later intensified attacks province-wide. The Waigal district fell to Taliban fighters on March 29.

On May 4, Taliban fighters from the Chapa Dara district of Kunar crossed into Nuristan and rocketed several security posts in the Wama district, injuring at least six policemen. A few days later, approximately 400 Taliban fighters besieged an Afghan security barracks housing police-reserves in the Chitras (Chatrash) and Koshtal area, some 11 miles south of the provincial capital. Nuristani officials believe that the Taliban’s shadow governor for Nuristan, Sheikh Dost mohammed, recently lived in Chitras, where he also administered his network of fighters and antigovernment activities.

Afghan government reinforcements arrived the following day, although one of four helicopters belonging to the Afghan National Army assisting local forces in Nuristan crashed as it attempted to land inside a compound in Paroon, injuring nine security personnel who were on board. The Taliban claimed to have shot the helicopter down; however, the midday crash occurred after the helicopter clipped a tree as it entered a compound operated by the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

During the last week of May, the Afghan government withdrew its forces from the Doab district following two days of heavy fighting between militants and the besieged local administration. Both Hizb-e-Islami and the Taliban claimed credit for the attack, with a Hizb-e-Islami spokesman claiming that 20 policemen had surrendered with their weapons.

On July 5, an estimated few hundred militants from Nuristan and Pakistan attacked four police checkpoints in the Gawardish area of the Kamdesh district. Pitched battles between government forces and militants lasted a week, with 23 Afghan Border Police and some 40 militants killed in the first 24 hours of the battle, according to the government officials who spoke with Pajhwok Afghan News.

There are only 160 policemen in the Kamdesh district, far too few to secure the 70-kilometer border it shares with Pakistan, according to provincial authorities. Previously, the provincial governor publicly stated that 40 percent of the police in Nuristan lacked weapons and other essential equipment needed to fight insurgents.

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  • Soccer says:

    Surprise surprise…..
    People have been saying this for months now.
    Obama and his team are hasty for a quick exit before the elections. It certainly doesn’t help when I read on certain forums the Taliban saying that “the invaders” had concluded their operations in Nuristan, losing 365 soldiers altogether in the course of a week and a half along with 9 bases destroyed, 14 helicopters shot down, 8 tanks destroyed, 24 military vehicles destroyed, and over 1000 “crusaders gravely injured by Mujahideen.”
    We are losing the information war as well as the classical war for terrain.

  • blert says:

    Isn’t Nuristan the LAST place in Afghanistan to convert to Islam?
    Wasn’t it previously known as Kafiristan?
    Isn’t this the locale for “A Man Who Would Be King” — of Kipling lore and Hollywood?
    Isn’t this just about the MOST difficult combat terrain the world has to offer this side of Antarctica?
    Isn’t this the land that is road-less — almost entirely?
    Wasn’t the helicopter borne logistics an absolute money pit for the ISAF?
    Isn’t it the case that while all roads lead to Rome — Nuristan has none?
    Wasn’t General Patraeus wise in shifting the focus of our mission to dominating social terrain — like Kandahar?
    Isnt’ that where the ISAF gutted the economic heart out of the Taliban oppression — and triggered the desire of Mullah Omar to chit chat?
    So, shouldn’t rational men everywhere support correct strategic thinking — which entails knowing that we’re not God — and can’t be everywhere doing everything for or to everyone?
    Based upon history — All of Afghanistan will be resolved before Nuristan — the tail of the dog.

  • VPR says:

    Our friend ‘Soccer’ may have fallen for the enemy’s shots in the information war. Those coalition losses he cited are an enemy delusional fairy tale. Remember the Iraqi Information Minister talking to press during the Iraq war, “To say we’re killing them (US attackers) is an understatement. Tomorrow I’ll take you to the airport and show you.” The US coalition annihilated the Iraqi Army in record time. I sense ‘soccer’s frustration, but we all have to keep our emotions out of it. We all need to study up on the “language” of war to help us fully understand what’s actually happening.

  • Vanessa Adelson says:

    I agree with what this article is saying, but PLEASE get your facts straight. My son was KIA on October 3, 2009 at COP Keating, not October 9th. Secondly, I would like all viewers of this article to know that the Afghan National Army fled their posts when the battle began, leaving our Army to fend for themselves. Who is it we are trying to help over there???
    Unless we treat this as a war, we cannot win it.
    Vanessa Adelson
    Gold Star Mother
    Spc. Stephan L. Mace
    COP Keating Afghanistan

  • g says:

    Good points by all but, especially blert, who does a great job pointing out that the context, lost on most Americans, is very important.
    Vanessa, I appreciate your son’s sacrifice, and thank you and him for that. I feel your frustration but his life was not in vain. He has helped to secure our nation, at least, for now.

  • Soccer says:

    I never claimed I BELIEVED the press released issued by the Taliban. I am simply relaying them to the readers.
    I think Bill will know first hand that the press releases are full of rubbish and that we all know they are 99 percent fake.

  • Neonmeat says:

    I think blert makes some very good points about where ISAF should be focussing its attention if it is to win this war. After the Soviet pullout of Afghanistan there was effectively a Civil War between various militias and warlords for control of the country, I often feel that our presence in these areas such as Nuristan enables groups with perhaps differing ideologies and goals to ally together against us their common enemy. I hope that if our presence was absent they can return to killing each other. Not that I think we should be out of Afghanistan I believe ISAF is doing a vital job and does have the upper hand, not that you would ever hear about that.
    Regarding the point made by Soccer yes we are losing the propaganda/information war it just seems to me the mainstream media could not care less what happens now in Afghanistan. It does not sell papers. They denigrate our brave troops and seem to want to only mention the war in Afghanistan in the context of making our Armed Forces look bad, almost in line with the Talibans and AQs drivel that we are imperialist dogs that murder babies etc etc. They totally ignore the progress that has been made and the effect that it has had on the local populus and the valiant efforts of men such as Spc. Stephan L. Mace who gave their lives protecting not only Americans but Europeans and Afghans too. If it wasn’t for websites such as LWJ I would never even know this was happening and I read alot of news.

  • Mr T says:

    Vanessa, I also appreciate you and your son’s sacrifice. We on this board have followed with great interest the happenings in Nuristan and COP Keating.
    Brave men like Stephan Mace put everything on the line in this war aginst Islamic extremism. I only wish our politicians and others around the world put the same effort and sacrifice into it.
    It is ridiculous that the Taliban could win any information war. Even locally, in no go zones, we should have the ability to influence the population. More importantly, it is not the US at fault here no matter how many politicains try to paint us as the villian due to our “past policies”.
    The Taliban are not defending against the occupation and the oppressors. The Taliban, in cooperation with Osama Bin Laden attacked us on 9/11 and continue to do so today. They are bearing the brunt of their decision, not ours. There are literally hundreds of thousands of followers of radical Islam around the world who will try everything in their power to kill infidels or anyone who doesn’t believe as they do.
    It is a scourge on the entire earth yet the worlds population has not grasped that fact. They still think they smell sulpher after an American leaves the room as Hugo Chavez alluded to. When the world finally comes to grips with the real evil in this equation, there is nothing that can stop them from eradicating it. A worldwiide capiphate is the Islamists goal with Islam and Sharia law the cornerstone of everything. This is worldwide domination we are talking about. The most evil of all goals. They can never achieve it but they will continue to try until the world wakes up and says no. What will it take? Another 9/11 only with nukes?
    When the world turns on Pakistan and Iran and Syria and Muslims reject even the hint of violence to acheive their aims, the world will be a better place. Until then, the chaos and loss of life and happiness on both sides will continue. Hence, the Long War.
    What is our plan in this information war? What are we doing to manage it or set the agenda for what the world needs to do? Whats our public relations campaign? Oh, we wil try to be nicer in the world and isolate ourselves and not get involved. If we are nice to the world, they will not attack us? B.S.
    Thats a terrible plan and will only result in us defending ourselves in our own cities. 9/11 was the precursior of that. Never forget. The rest of the world has but we need to keep reminding them of the evil that radical Islam, or Islam in general, has brought to our world. We should put every ounce of our effort behind it. Militarily, politically, culturally, economically, etc and not just send our brave soldiers to fight while the rest of us watch American Idol or Ice Road Truckers. When will the world get in he fight?

  • Matt R. says:

    Excellent statement Neonmeat! The mainstream American media is NOT reporting the progress that has been made in Afghanistan. All they seem to report is casualties to Americans and the our NATO allies.

  • jean says:

    Nuristani has been accused of playing both sides, he w as not well liked in Kabul, a family feud that went back years. MOD and MOI with held money for salaries and infrastructure, rumor had it that he cut deals with the HIG and some other groups in order to stay in power. He was removed from the office in 2008 and moved to India. His repalcement was killed in car accident on the way back from Kabul, not sure when he returned to Nuristan/Afghanistan. The ODA guys were convinced he was in bed with the enemy. It is not in his personal or financial interest for central government to have a strong presence in Nuristan.He is a very personable guy, well respected by the mountain shura

  • Paul D says:

    Pakistan showed their true colours once OBL was killed.They fund and support the eastern Afghanistan insurgency!
    Which country mourned OBL death most-PAKISTAN!

  • Soccer says:

    Well, we definitely need to step up OUR information war.
    ISAF tries to relay their own side of the story/war through certain forms of media, be it Facebook, Youtube, dvidshub,, various approved blogging sites, and even publiv patrols in Afghanistan, distributing leaflets and booklets.
    But the Taliban and the Islamic aggressors have the SHOCK value on their side. The human mind has always been drawn to blood, guns and explosions: It’s what sells the big tickets. Just ask Hollywood for the past 50 years.
    Until ISAF finds a way to counter-balance the Taliban’s sensationalist method and nature of propaganda, we will always be on the losing end of the information war.
    It may sound offbeat, but I’ve always found that video montages set to heavy metal music seems to be the appropriate, Westernized (Americanized) way of dealing with extremist propaganda. It worked in the early days of Afghanistan and in Iraq circa 2003-2007. It was a highly effective way of getting young people in the west into the war, what we’re fighting for, and it also showed airstrikes, raids, etc.
    The military and ISAF needs to stop promoting a ‘feel good’ media paradigm to use against the extremists. It’s not working, and we need to take the tone up a few levels.

  • senator hafiz abdul qayum and senator shah says:

    tamim was the governor of nuristan province until 2008 in the past and was sacked by the karzai administration for corruption and mismanagement. he has also strong ties with the northern alliance and the indians. he was not able to deliver to the people of nuristan during his tenure as governor. this is schocking that the same karzai administration has appointed him the governor of nuristan without the approval and understanding with the parliamentarians, senators and the provincial council members of Nuristan. tamim was also a candidate in the recent parliamentary elections and he lost in the elections. his appointment is a shock for the people of nuristan and shows that karzai administration always promotes corrupted political personalities.
    senator qayum and senator shah
    Nuristan provicne.

  • Soccer says:

    I don’t mean to be rude, but I doubt you are actually posting from Nuristan province… MAYBE you are in Kabul, but even that is an unlikely exception.
    And what’s up with the names? Senator who??


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