Reports from eastern Afghanistan indicate that hundreds of Taliban fighters, including members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, raided two villages in Kamdesh district in Nuristan today.
According to Pajhwok Afghan News, the Taliban fighters were “mostly Pakistanis,” which would likely make them members of Mullah Fazlullah’s group, which operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. Fazlullah’s fighters killed and beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in Dir in northwestern Pakistan last week.
Reports from AFP, Pajhwok , and Xinhua indicate that the Afghan security forces repelled the assault, but at a high price, as many of the homes were reported to have been set aflame during the fighting. The details of the attack below are from Pajhwok. Additionally, ISAF air power may have played a critical role in repelling the attack; AFP reported that Afghan officials called in ISAF airstrikes:
Hundreds of heavily armed militants, mostly Pakistanis, attacked security posts in two villages in the Kamdish district of eastern Nuristan province, sparking a fierce gun-battle, officials said on Friday.
The skirmishes in Pirok and Binoz villages erupted early on Friday morning, with both sides claiming to have inflicted heavy casualties.
The governor’s spokesman, Mohammad Zarin, told Pajhwok Afghan News hundreds of militants laced with heavy weapons attacked the two villages near the Pakistani border.
He claimed the Pirok village was completely torched during the clash and 20 attackers, most of them Pakistani fighters, have so far been killed.
He added bodies of the slain insurgents were still lying there. However, he had no information if civilians suffered any casualties because the clash in one of the villages was still ongoing.
Zarin said the clash in Pirok village had ended, but was ongoing in Binoz village. He added they had called for assistance from the defence and interior ministries and international troops.
A border police spokesman Mohammad Idrees Mohmand said a key Taliban commander identified as Maulvi Abbas was among 25 rebels killed in the clash.
But a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Pajhwok over the telephone that nine security check posts were seized and 15 security personnel were killed during clashes in Kamdish district.
He also confirmed that the clash was still ongoing, with the fighters occupying more security posts.
Nuristan and neighboring Kunar province have fallen further under Taliban control after ISAF abandoned counterinsurgency operations there and withdrew from remote valleys that saw some of the heaviest fighting. The US is now temporarily sending in a battalion of troops back into Nuristan to reestablish outposts in the province. The battalion of soldiers will be withdrawn in October and will not be replaced [see Threat Matrix report, US returns to Afghanistan’s ‘Lost Province,’ for a while].
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.