After several days of fighting the Taliban have made another major gain in the Helmand Province, capturing the strategically important Musa Qala District, and forcing the Afghan troops who were defending it into retreat. This is the latest of several districts seized in recent weeks.
Taliban forces had seized the adjacent Naw Zad District last week, and moved against Musa Qala over the weekend. NATO responded by deploying troops of its own into the area to help the Afghan military, which was initially captured from the Taliban in 2007, and had been held ever since.
District Governor Mohamad Sharif, who also fled Musa Qala today, blamed the losses on the lack of reinforcements from the Afghan government, saying they’d been calling for more troops for days and none showed up. The district gives the Taliban yet more control over the Helmand Province, and the lucrative opium trade in the area.
Helmand is one of several provinces the Taliban has tried to make new gains on since their “spring offensive,” and while NATO has praised the Afghan military for holding up relatively well against all of these offensives, in many cases they are just losing the territory at a slower rate.
This is being spun as progress, but in the long-run the Afghan military is still losing ground, a fact which appears to be driving NATO back into more direct military roles of their own. NATO couldn’t beat the Taliban in its own 14 years of fighting, but seems contented to try to get back to a stalemate.