Subscribe to FDD

US killed commander of Taliban’s ‘Red Unit’

Bill Roggio
5th December 2017 - FDD's Long War Journal

Mullah Shah Wali, the Red Unit’s leader who was also known as Haji Nasir, was killed along with a deputy commander and three other “insurgents” in an airstrike in the Taliban-controlled district of Musa Qala, Resolute Support said today.

A video posted by US Forces – Afghanistan (above) shows the airstrike that killed Wali and his companions. Wali was traveling in a vehicle when it was struck from the air.

“Wali and his ‘Red Unit’ are responsible for planning numerous suicide bombings, IED attacks, and coordinated assaults against civilians, Afghan and coalition forces. Wali was directly responsible for coordinating operations and resupply of munitions, explosives, and materials for the Taliban throughout Helmand province,” NATO command noted.

USFOR-A commander General John Nicholson claimed Wali’s death will “disrupt the Taliban network, degrade their narcotics trafficking, and hinder their ability to conduct attacks against Afghan forces.” However, over the past 16 years US officials have routinely touted the deaths of top Taliban leaders and military commanders as disruptive, only to watch the insurgency thrive.

The Red Unit, which is the Taliban’s version of special forces, operates throughout Afghanistan and is often at the tip of the spear of assaults on district centers, military bases, and outposts. The Red Unit operates more like shock troops rather than traditional Western special forces.

Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of a Taliban “Special Forces Unit,” also called the Red Group or Danger Group, in the summer of 2016. An Afghan Army special forces commander said the group uses “advanced weaponry, including night vision scopes, 82mm rockets, heavy machine guns and US-made assault rifles.”

The Taliban has touted the existence of “special forces,” and has promoted its training camps as well as units in the field.

While the Taliban’s Red Unit certainly isn’t trained to the same standards and proficiency as US special operations forces, it has proven to be effective on the battlefield against its Afghan adversaries.

In Helmand, where the Red Unit has been very active, the Taliban currently controls six of the province’s 14 districts (Baghran, Dishu, Khanashin, Now Zad, Musa Qala, and Sangin) and contests another six, including the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah, Nahr-i-Sarraj, Kajaki, Nad Ali, Marjah, and Garmsir), according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter at @FDD


afghanistan, red-unit, taliban