Showing posts with label musa-qala. Show all posts
Showing posts with label musa-qala. Show all posts

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Musa Qala District Abandoned by ANDSF

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have withdrawn its security forces from the district of Musa Qala in Helmand province (on Saturday) after a protracted struggle with the Taliban over the past year. The district is now under Taliban control. The ANDSF calls it a "redeployment of forces". Another government spokesman said that the troops were not accomplishing anything in the district and that the move will put the troops into a different and more important district that is heavily contested by the Taliban.  The few troops that were in the district were confined to a couple of bases. The Taliban had already taken control of the district bazaar and government buildings. The fall of Musa Qala district may have a cascading effect on other nearby districts in Helmand province. It could be that the Afghan government is on a path to cede northern Helmand to the insurgents. Some observers think that the Taliban now either control or are contesting 10 of the 14 Helmand province districts. Overall, a grim reflection on how ill-prepared the ANDSF are in combating the Taliban. Read more in "Afghan troops pull out of strategic Helmand district", Reuters, February 20, 2016.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Musa Qala District Recaptured by ANDSF?

Afghan officials early this week indicated that Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) recaptured the district center of Musa Qala. This district is located in the northern part of Helmand province and was the seen of fierce fighting between British forces and the Taliban and later U.S. Marines and the Taliban. Reports indicate that U.S. airpower played as significant role as well as special operations advisors on the ground with the Afghan National Army Commandos and Special Forces kandaks. The counteroffensive was launched by the ANDSF on/about August 28th - two days after the district fell to the Taliban. The town of Musa Qala straddles opium farms and smuggling routes and is adjacent to other districts in Helmand province under the control of the Taliban. Certainly this is a big morale boost for the ANDSF.

CAUTION ALERT: Most insurgencies don't try to "hold" terrain as they can't match up with large conventional forces supported with artillery and airpower - so expectations that the Taliban would retain control of the district center are not realistic. The importance of the battle for Musa Qala is that the government forces were ejected from the district center by the Taliban. In addition, read about the difference between control of the district center and control of the district. Read more in "Afghan Forces Recapture Symbolic Southern District", Gandhara Blog, August 30, 2015. Of course, sometimes information released by the Ministry of Defense is inaccurate. For instance, one news report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation (Sep 3, 2015) says that the Afghan forces have yet to regain control of the symbolic district. Hmmmm. For a detailed report on Musa Qala read "The Second Fall of Musa Qala: How the Taleban are expanding territorial control", Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), September 3, 2015.

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.