Sunday, August 30, 2015

Musa Qala District Falls to Taliban

Musa Qala Falls to Taliban. After months of intense fighting the district center of Musa Qala in Helmand province was taken by Taliban fighters on/about Tuesday, August 26th. This is the first time the district has been controlled by the Taliban since 2007. Reports indicate that as many as 35 ANDSF died with many more wounded. The district center fell despite air strikes by the United States to repel the attackers. The air strikes killed as many as forty insurgents. Most of Northern Helmand - at this point in time- is effectively controlled by the Taliban. They have control of most of Naw Zad, Baghran, and Musa Qala districts.

Read more in "Taliban Overruns Strategic District in Southern Afghanistan"Gandhara Blog, August 27, 2015. Read about the responses of Marines that fought for Musa Qala several years back in "As Towns in Helmand Province fall, Marines speak out"The Washington Post, August 27, 2015. Read more in "Musa Qala is small military victory for Taliban but big propaganda boost"The Guardian, August 27, 2015. See also "Prominent Afghan Officials Are Killed by Taliban in 3 Attacks in South", The New York Times, August 29, 2015.

ANDSF Counterattack? Is the Afghan National Defense Security Forces trying to retake the district? Apparently efforts are underway - possibly with the support of US. (or coalition) airpower. Some news reports say that the Afghan deputy defense minister is in Helmand province looking over preparations for a counterattack. Read more in "U.S., NATO Forces Join Afghan Effort to Oust Taliban from Helmand", Gandhara Blog, August 28, 2015.

How Important is One District? There are about 400 districts in Afghanistan. Some are located in strategic areas (urban areas, important border crossings, provincial capitals, or adjacent to the ring road). Others not so much. Musa Qala was bitterly contested between the Brits and the Taliban and then later between the U.S. Marines and the Taliban. Now the fight is between the ANDSF and the Taliban. If one district is under the control of the Taliban then the adjacent districts become threatened.

What Constitutes Control of a District? The yardstick that the Afghan government uses (and presumably RS Hqs) is if the district center is occupied by Afghan police then it is government controlled. That doesn't mean that the District Governor (DGov) goes to work there; he may conduct his business from the provincial capital or Kabul via cell phone. Another possible indicator is how many ministry officials (MRRD, MAIL, etc.) actually occupy an office at the district center. In RC East (now TAAC-East) I visited many district centers that were "controlled by the government" - that control consisted of the immediate vicinity of the district center measured by the maximum effective range of an AK-47 or PKM. One province comes to mind: Wardak. Consisting of eight districts with the important ring road running north south through its eastern edge this province could be called a key area. However, of the eight districts perhaps only four could be called under government control although each of the district centers is occupied by Afghan police. So of the 400 some districts in Afghanistan how many are really under government control? Depends on what you mean by government control. Read more on what constitutes control of an Afghan district.

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