3 Feb 2007

PR# 2007-083

Statement of the ISAF spokesperson
on Musa Qala

KABUL, Afghanistan – Yesterday, reports were received that an unknown number of Taliban entered the Musa Qala district center, in Helmand province and that pressure has been placed on the Elders. 

ISAF is closely monitoring the situation and is prepared to support the Government of Afghanistan (GoA), the Governor of Helmand, the Elders and the people of Musa Qala.

This issue needs to be kept in context. The Taliban have previously taken district centers for short periods for propaganda purposes. They are unable to hold them in the face of superior ANSF and ISAF power. Musa Qala, like these others, will be restored to GoA authority at a time and manner of the GoA’s choosing.

Although Musa Qala is a serious matter, it remains just one district. The overall situation in Afghanistan remains one where ANSF and ISAF forces retain the initiative and through operations such as Oqab and Baaz Tsuka, are on the offensive and will remain so.

It must be emphasized that the Taliban were not part of any agreement in Musa Qala. The Musa Qala agreement was between the provincial governor and the town Elders, with the support of the GoA and ISAF.

By their actions, the Taliban have ended over four month’s of peace in Musa Qala which, until now, had seen a return to normality with reconstruction and development getting underway.  It is very clear that the Taliban are acting against the wishes of the people of Musa Qala.

The Taliban’s claim that ISAF breached the agreement is totally inaccurate.  The event they claim was a breach, an air strike, was clearly outside the area covered by the Musa Qala agreement.  This claim is purely a Taliban excuse to try to justify their attempt to destroy an arrangement that they perceived to not be to their advantage and was increasingly being supported within the town.

The Taliban actions show that the tribal Elders, by working with the provincial and national government have been acting with bravery and courage, and also seeking to represent the wishes of their local people.

The Taliban actions demonstrate that the Musa Qala agreement was not in their interest. The attack on the town follows a previous attempt to intimidate the tribal Elders, which the Elders decisively rejected. This also indicates that the Taliban are not acting in the interests of the local people.

Recent events do not invalidate the concept of agreements with tribal Elders. Indeed the willingness of the Elders to accept such agreements, against the wishes of the Taliban, demonstrates their desire to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.  ISAF will work with all relevant authorities to ensure agreements can be effectively maintained.

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/