Good News: Retaking Bargimatal

by Joshua Foust on 7/13/2009 · 2 comments

Bargimatal, by Nancy Dupree, courtesy the Williams Afghan Media Project (hint: read David Edwards’ two books immediately).

Ah ha! A few days ago, the U.S. abandoned Bargimatal, a very isolated area right on the border between Nuristan and Chitral. It was immediately occupied by militants. I saw the news but didn’t really note it anywhere, as it was the latest in a very long line of entire regions we’ve ceded to militants, and as much as I am obsessed fascinated with the area, it’s really of no strategic significance. Because of the area’s geography, there’s no reason to choke it off at the border, and Nuristanis in general seem to want to be left alone by everybody, and not just us.

That being said, it looks like Afghan and American forces have retaken the district center. At least two militants died in the fight.

That certainly counts as good news for now. Please keep the good news items—any, I’m serious—coming.

The USFOR-A Facebook page is hosting some cool photos of the retaking of Bargimatal as well.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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David M July 14, 2009 at 9:00 am

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/14/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

David July 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Unless things have changed dramatically in the last year or two, the U.S. never had any permanent presence in Bargimatal that they could have abandoned.

Bargimatal is the district that lies north of Kamdesh district.
Since August 2006, Camp Keating has been located on the road near the river at Urmur, which is the Kamdesh district center. Because Keating must largely be resupplied by helo, it is not clear whether it will be maintained.

A project to rebuild the road linking Bargimatal to Kamdesh had been started in 2006 but because the road linking Kamdesh to Barikot and the outside world was not improved, the Bargimatal-Kamdesh road project was delayed or canceled. Pick-ups can negotiate that road and Humvees could with great difficulty and danger. (Camp Keating got its name from Ben Keating, who was killed when his vehicle plunged off the road south of Urmur shortly after the base opened.)

U.S. forces on occasion visited Bargimatal by helo. Although the people there had previously strong connections to the Lashkar-i Tayyiba, in recent years they supported the Afghan government and the provincial administration.

Tensions between the Kata people of Bargimatal and the Kom of Kamdesh and environs have been rocky for many years. One result was that even when the road was passable, the Kata found themselves subject to harassment by the Kom who sat on their main year-round route to the outside world.

The movement of the bad guys into Bargimatal is a bit puzzling as it is as noted something of a cul-de-sac. During the Jihad, it was a key transit point for Jamiat fighters in Panjshir, but that route crosses at least three extremely high passes. Bargimatal district also affords routes from Chitral into Badakhshan although there is no need to take the district center in order to use those routes if the bad guys are keen to infiltrate into northeastern Afghanistan.

Perhaps the bad guys decided to move into Bargimatal because they could do so confident that the Coalition could only respond by airborne assault and thus they could score an easy propaganda victory.

The Coalition can retake Bargimatal, but they would be foolish to seek to hold it given the cost and difficulty of maintaining a presence there and the strategic insignificance of it.

We have seen the Coalition withdraw from other locations in Nuristan because of the challenges of resupply and the impossibility of securing the population with the small forces available.

Press reports have also stated that at least one American was killed in the operation to retake Bargimatal.

CBS has some interesting footage showing the operation to retake the place. The forces that went in apparently went in quite light given the size of the mortar that appears in the report.

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