The Taliban Strategy of Nuristan

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

The Iowa Army National Guard, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, recently saw significant kinetic operations in the Nuristan Province.

A tale of courage under fire has been received out of Afghanistan involving soldiers of the Waterloo-headquartered Iowa Army National Guard battalion.

Members of the Guard’s 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment – the “Ironman Battalion” – lived up to their nickname in the recapture of the Afghan town of Do Ab, Nuristan province, in heavy fighting with entrenched Taliban insurgents on May 25.

After being pinned down for more than an hour by unrelenting mortar and machine gun fire in an exposed helicopter landing zone, the soldiers fought their way to a livestock compound that offered a defensible position.

They provided cover fire for a second wave mainly made up of friendly Afghan forces. Supported by assault helicopters and Air Force fighter jets, they drove off the enemy and retook Do Ab, a governmental center similar to a county seat, according to soldiers’ accounts.

The 60-soldier force – 42 “Ironmen” and 18 Afghan nationals – sustained no casualties while killing more than 100 Taliban.

While the 1/133rd, part of the 34th “Red Bull” infantry division, has seen combat throughout its eight months in Afghanistan, the May 25 operation was the heaviest fighting experienced to date.

It was one of the “most significant engagements the Red Bull has been involved in since World War II,” Guard spokesman Maj. Mike Wunn in Afghanistan said.

“We had many points through the day where luck was on our side. Our guys did an outstanding job, which led to all of us coming home,” added 1/133rd battalion commander Lt. Col. Steven Kremer of Cherokee.

“It’s just amazing to me, it’s unbelievable everyone came out,” Kremer said.

The soldiers were members of the 1/133rd’s headquarters and headquarter company, as well as Charlie Company, and the battalion mortar and sniper teams. The sniper team was headed by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Buhr of Waverly.

Intelligence reports indicated the reinforced Taliban had seized Do Ab. The 1/133rd’s mission, Kremer said, was to assess the enemy strength and determine how large a force would be needed to deal with the insurgents. The Guardsmen flew in on two Chinook helicopters in a fairly confined landing zone, the only flat area in the rough terrain around Do Ab.

They discovered the enemy strength soon after landing. Guard 1st Lt. Justin Foote of New Hartford, formerly of Evansdale, 1/133rd reconnaissance platoon leader, said an air burst from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade exploded over one of the Chinooks as it took off, and the fight was on.

“The whole (landing zone) erupted into fire,” Foote said. “From every point of high ground, from every piece of defensible fighting position the enemy were in, it pretty much rained down – all types of weapons, small arms fire, machine gun fire, RPG fire and enemy mortar rounds.”

Soldiers would take cover behind rocks for protection, only to be subjected to fire from another angle. “You were taking fire from pretty much every direction,” Foote said.

The experienced Taliban were dug in up to their chests in the rocky fortifications. The two Chinooks had landed 300 meters apart, under such withering fire it took the Ironmen an hour to consolidate their divided force.

Noncommissioned officers moved back and forth in the open, exposed to enemy fire, to coordinate their soldiers’ efforts. But the Ironmen, at this point in their deployment, know their jobs well in such situations, said Maj. Aaron Baugher of Ankeny, senior ground force commander during the operation, and Sgt. Edward Kane of Portland, Ore., an interstate transfer soldier serving with the 1/133rd.

The Ironmen mortar and sniper squads and supporting Black Hawk assault helicopters laid down suppressing fire on the north side of the landing zone. That allowed the entire force to finally move to defensible positions. The Black Hawks also sustained heavy damage from the Taliban fire, but survived the fight.

The force leaders on the ground decided to head for the shelter of the compound of defensible livestock buildings rather than take a narrow and exposed road directly into Do Ab, especially after a friendly Afghan police force the Guardsmen were to meet up with did not show.

With the assistance of Air Force personnel, the soldiers called in F-15 and F-16 fighters which dropped 500-pound bombs on the enemy positions – some within 200 meters of their own. Apache helicopter gunships also arrived to help take out the Taliban positions.

Read the rest of the report at the WCF Courier.  This engagement isn’t surprising, given that the Taliban had stated that their focus would be on this area of operations.

… history is not on NATO’s side. The 1978 uprising by landowners and clerics, which led to civil war, the virtual collapse of the government and ultimately the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, began in eastern Nuristan and spread quickly to Kunar. “Trouble here can break the central government,” said Qari Ziaur Rahman, a regional commander for the Taliban who is also a leader of the Punjab-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, in a 2008 interview. “Whoever has been defeated in Afghanistan, his defeat began from Kunar.” Whether the Taliban and their allies can pull off a successful assault on Asadabad is questionable, but there seems little doubt they’ll try. For its part, NATO has redeployed troops to the valley linking Waygal with Asadabad in what looks like an attempt to lock the door.

Not only in Nuristan, but Kunar as well.  In fact, the whole Pech River Valley and throughout the Hindu Kush is important as a staging area for enemy fighters.  And rather than focus only on the population centers, we seem to be expending some effort on chasing the enemy.

It’s almost as if someone had previously pointed out that we need to do something like this.



  • http://umc-unofficiallaymanopenforum.ning.com/ Warbucks

    NPR radio is offering the US audience a script for troop withdrawal that presents listeners a hopeful new strategy approved by General Petraeus.

    (1) ANA severs as support to all local home-guard units organized much as our own National Guard units, except ever more village-centric with “elder appointed (drafted)” members each funded by the community paid $150 per man.

    (2) Home Guards remain and serve locally. This is reported as popular to the elders and to the Home Guard members.

    (3) Reference made to the effect that its popularity is derived …… get ready….. from a strategic decision to not interfere with local farmer’s (elder’s) drug trade which many have grown rich working.

    This process was offered as our end-game.

    Once again, the scenario I listened to can probably be found on line on NPR archives for JUN 20, 2011. I did not hear the entire broadcast.

    I would be very interested in other’s opinions here. It leaves me with an impression that this war will carry an historic conclusion that we came in response, we fought and paid with our blood and treasure, and perfected a sanctuary for the world supply of opium once again supporting the vast drug empires globally. One more reason to legalize drugs. The drug wars do not work on any level. It’s time to change them.

  • http://firstcontactproject.org/ Warbucks
  • Jean

    The question will be ” who will the Home Guard units be loyal to” . We used arbaki ( tribal Militias ) in the early days of Kunar, they were typically loyal to their commander or whoever paid them. The attempt to convert ASG to ANSF was not very successful.
    The Taliban do not have a great track record for running local government or getting along with the locals. Once we are gone, the common theme of throw out the invaders/occupier will turn back on the “foreign” fighters.
    BTW- great article about the “Red Bulls”, not sure why we haven’t hit back Wanat/Waygal the terrain is not a big obsatcle as “staff weenies” would have you believe. I am not convinced that Nuristan is key terrain. There is very little usable land, the Nuristani are not that open to outsiders and Uzbeks and Chechens are not known for their table manners.

  • John B

    Great article on Iowa’s Army National Guard!

    Comment on Warbucks: (3) “strategic decision to not interfere with local farmer’s (elder’s) drug trade which many have grown rich working”.

    Though I am very anti-drug (even avoid legal drugs), I have to agree that the decision to not interfere with the local’s drug trade is a good strategy for this reason: Every bordering country especially Iran has major issues with their population’s addiction to poppy. That will eventually force those countries to engage the Afghans and possibly the Taliban who live off the profits. Iran will have to draw attention and resources away from Iraq, Syria, etc and direct it to combat the flow of poppy that is having a very negative effect on its population. Let’s not forget that Iran is mainly Shia while the Taliban and Pakistan are mainly Sunni. India will need to step in and without the support of the US, it will be interesting to see how an ineffective Pakistani military will deal with India.
    Russia’s sphere of influence will extend into Afghanistan as well because Moscow is very concerned about the drug trade going into the former Soviet satellites. This will draw resources from Moscow while allowing the US to redirect her power projection back where it needs to be. Finally, as far as the Taliban, if those local farmers become wealthy enough, the whole place may turn into another Mexico allowing the Afghan tribes to make life miserable for the hated Taliban. Afghanistan’s cash crop should keep the “thorn in the side” countries busy for many years.

  • http://firstcontactproject.org/ Warbucks

    John B., My thesis (if it’s fair to call it such) is based on our own first changing of drug laws voluntarily, here in the US with the goal of attacking the profit margins of the drug trade, which is the stimulus that drives production, shipping, and distribution/corruption black markets world wide.

    I don’t doubt your insightful and creative scenario but if I read you correctly you assume a market network for tomorrow that continues with the same profit margins as today, I do not assume the same profit margins, and therein lies the major difference in the projected outcomes.

    I do not know what the unintended consequences of legalizing drugs will be. To that extend I confess total ignorance. I think Herschel’s comments that here in the US we will hook another 10-million victims to the drug’s sensory pleasures if we legalize the drugs is certainly possible. The social issues are far more complex than I will likely ever understand. The difference is, I’m willing and have been for many years now to call a truce on the enforcement of our old paradigm of morality and risk the exploration of alternatives.

    Drug consumption needs to be treaded more like alcohol production, marketing and distribution and controlled and taxed. We are captains of our own ship. I can not steer your inner ship of consciousness any more than you can steer mine, especially on matters of addiction or devotion to sensory pleasures of our body. Eventually, we each must choose for ourselves.

  • Pingback: The Captain's Journal » General Rod’s War

  • Pingback: The Captain's Journal » Nuristan, Kunar, Pakistan and the Taliban: The Nexus


You are currently reading "The Taliban Strategy of Nuristan", entry #7146 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Nuristan and was published June 20th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (675)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (28)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (6)
Ammunition (14)
Animals in War (4)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
AR-15s (39)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (34)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (26)
Australian Army (5)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (44)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (15)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (4)
Body Armor (16)
Books (2)
Border War (7)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (26)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (1)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
CENTCOM (7)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (5)
CIA (12)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (214)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (114)
Department of Homeland Security (9)
Disaster Preparedness (2)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (5)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (1)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (1)
Featured (161)
Federal Firearms Laws (15)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (259)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (14)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (38)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
GITMO (2)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (219)
Guns (596)
Guns In National Parks (2)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
HAMAS (7)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (7)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (11)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (13)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (35)
India (10)
Infantry (3)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (22)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (378)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (33)
Islamists (37)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (71)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (8)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (2)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (2)
Lawfare (6)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (1)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (11)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (7)
Logistics (48)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (229)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
MEDEVAC (2)
Media (22)
Memorial Day (2)
Mexican Cartels (20)
Mexico (24)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (3)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (3)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (10)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (13)
NATO (15)
Navy (19)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (1)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (53)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (205)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (17)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (1)
Police (124)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (141)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (77)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (74)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (27)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (140)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (22)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (17)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Survival (10)
SWAT Raids (51)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (1)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (16)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (87)
Thanksgiving (4)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (10)
TSA Ineptitude (10)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (4)
U.S. Border Security (11)
U.S. Sovereignty (13)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (2)
Uncategorized (39)
Universal Background Check (2)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (210)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (2)
War Reporting (18)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (5)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (57)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (12)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2014 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.