US killed commander of Taliban’s ‘Red Unit’

Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, announced the US killed the leader of the Taliban’s special forces in Helmand, known as the Red Unit or Red Group, during an airstrike in the province on Dec. 1.

Mullah Shah Wali, the Red Unit’s leader who was also known as Haji Nasir, was killed along with a deputy commander and three other “insurgents” in an airstrike in the Taliban-controlled district of Musa Qala, Resolute Support said today.

A video posted by US Forces – Afghanistan (above) shows the airstrike that killed Wali and his companions. Wali was traveling in a vehicle when it was struck from the air.

“Wali and his ‘Red Unit’ are responsible for planning numerous suicide bombings, IED attacks, and coordinated assaults against civilians, Afghan and coalition forces. Wali was directly responsible for coordinating operations and resupply of munitions, explosives, and materials for the Taliban throughout Helmand province,” NATO command noted.

USFOR-A commander General John Nicholson claimed Wali’s death will “disrupt the Taliban network, degrade their narcotics trafficking, and hinder their ability to conduct attacks against Afghan forces.” However, over the past 16 years US officials have routinely touted the deaths of top Taliban leaders and military commanders as disruptive, only to watch the insurgency thrive.

The Red Unit, which is the Taliban’s version of special forces, operates throughout Afghanistan and is often at the tip of the spear of assaults on district centers, military bases, and outposts. The Red Unit operates more like shock troops rather than traditional Western special forces.

Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of a Taliban “Special Forces Unit,” also called the Red Group or Danger Group, in the summer of 2016. An Afghan Army special forces commander said the group uses “advanced weaponry, including night vision scopes, 82mm rockets, heavy machine guns and US-made assault rifles.”

The Taliban has touted the existence of “special forces,” and has promoted its training camps as well as units in the field.

While the Taliban’s Red Unit certainly isn’t trained to the same standards and proficiency as US special operations forces, it has proven to be effective on the battlefield against its Afghan adversaries.

In Helmand, where the Red Unit has been very active, the Taliban currently controls six of the province’s 14 districts (Baghran, Dishu, Khanashin, Now Zad, Musa Qala, and Sangin) and contests another six, including the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah, Nahr-i-Sarraj, Kajaki, Nad Ali, Marjah, and Garmsir), according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

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

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  • Devendra Sood says:

    We have no choice but to keep killing them there or expect them to show up here eventually.

  • Sunny says:

    It seems to me that the Taliban fail to realise or least haven’t given much thought to the fact that when they take over districts that there many locals who can not tolerate them and hence reports of their movements are reported to the NDS or the Coalition.

  • jones says:

    What happened to the Lashkar-al-zil ? (sic)

  • Arjuna says:

    These the guys who use Barretts? I believe they are.
    We’ve now been “not winning” in theater long enough that the enemy has captured and turned our guns against us. Same as Iraq. What a lovely 100 Year “Not Winning” War.
    Thanks, Pakistan. Where is Mullah Unpronouncable? He needs to be sanctioned.


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