It took him half an hour to fall. -Peachy Carnehan, “The Man Who Would Be King”

On June 24, I published Nuristan Province: Conflict, Reconciliation, and Development at Foreign Intrigue that examined the consequences for diminished application of  aid and development resources in the eastern Afghanistan province of Nuristan. This article is a companion piece to “Nuristan Province: Conflict, Reconciliation, and Development.” Where I address issues of development and governance in that article, this work will concentrate on identifying the threats to improved quality of life in Nuristan and focus upon insurgent groups and international terrorist network sponsors that continue to occupy important areas throughout Nuristan Province.

Of particular note to military observers is the recent history of conflict and combat in Nuristan. Of the 10 Congressional Medals of Honor awarded for engagements in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the war in Afghanistan, five have been for actions in Nuristan. SGT Ryan Pitts is the latest, with his award announced on Monday:

  • June 21, 2006: SFC Jared C. Monti. 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division
  • November 9, 2007: SGT Kyle J. White. 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade
  • July 23, 2008: SGT Ryan Pitts. 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade
  • October 3, 2009: SSG Clinton L. Romesha.  3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
  • October 3, 2009: SSG Ty M. Carter. 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division

Last August, we published a primer on the province at Foreign Intrigue. In that article, you can find useful links and background information on the history of Nuristan. In “Nuristan Province: Conflict, Reconciliation, and Development,” I noted the decline in application of development projects and aid in Nuristan Province in recent years, addressed an apparent lack of international commitment to development, and assessed the likelihood of increased fundamentalist militancy as a result of reduced commitment to constructing important infrastructure such as medical, educational, and governmental facilities. I explored the dynamic of interoperability between military forces and aid and development organizations in Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

In the article, I concluded:

The likely outcome of reduced commitment to development in Nuristan is the relegation of an entire generation of Afghan children to continued and worsening poverty. The result of this poverty would be a renewed effort by fundamentalist militants operating both in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to co-opt the desperate people of eastern Nuristan, impede the progress of growing governmental legitimacy among the isolated villages of Kamdesh and Barg-i-Matal, and roll back the gains of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in an effort to become the defacto security organization in the region. The result of this degradation in the application of aid and development resources is a significant rise in fundamentalist militancy and the strengthening of an essential network of havens for Al Qaeda as it seeks to rejuvenate its quickly waning international support for anti-Western jihad, held in abeyance in the wake of historical events such as the Arab Spring.

Nuristan is a province in northeastern Afghanistan. Prior to the most recent war in Afghanistan, Nuristan was perhaps best known for being the subject of Rudyard Kipling’s epic tale “The Man Who Would Be King.” Characterized by its craggy, mountainous terrain, the long history of the people who live there is dotted with exceptionally interesting tales of ferocious warriors and a deeply-ingrained mistrust of outsiders.

Nuristan DistrictsCulturally, Nuristanis are ethno-linguistically distinguishable from neighboring Pashtuns and are noted for their fierce fighting history. Nuristan is valued by insurgent leaders for its remote location, its ability to conceal the movement of fighters, and its centralized location to insurgent battlegrounds in Pakistan and Afghanistan. With peaks and ridge lines in excess of 15,000 feet scarring the region, Nuristan buttresses the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal districts of Chitral and Dir. Nuristan is often referenced in reports as conjoined to its southern neighbor, Kunar Province.