Buried beneath the wall-to-wall coverage of the war in Gaza, the simmering conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the plight of Yezidis beset upon by the barbaric hordes of ISIS, the ebola outbreak in Africa, and the media’s insistence on ignoring the war in Afghanistan was an important (and yet largely unrecognized) event this past month in remote eastern Nuristan Province.

On August 1, insurgents conducted a massive attack on Barg-i-Matal District in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. Spread throughout the far-flung district in Eastern Afghanistan, hundreds of insurgent fighters attacked Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) outposts, targeted and killed innocent civilians, and burned entire villages to the ground.

Some reports state that as many as 1,000 enemy fighters descended upon Barg-i-Matal, sweeping through multiple villages and killing scores. ANSF personnel, reinforced by other national security elements, fought back and a protracted, days-long campaign by insurgent forces was beaten back.

News of the attacks was slow to trickle through to Western media sources. However, among those with the first reports of the fighting in the restive, remote eastern province was Bilal Sarwary, an Afghan who reports for BBC News. On August 2, Sarwary began to Tweet out reports detailing the size of the insurgent force, the ongoing fighting, and the insurgents’ subsequent burning down of the village. In particular, Sarwary’s Tweets turned out to be the public’s first exposure to the curious and inspiring story of a heroic young Nuristani woman who took up arms to defend her family and her village in the northernmost valley of the district.

Nuristan Districts
The districts of Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.

Nuristan Province is a secluded and insurgent-saturated area of eastern Afghanistan that has become known throughout most of the last decade for its high profile, massing insurgent attacks on villages such as Kamdesh, Wanat, and Barg-i-Matal. You can find my primer on Nuristan Province here. With extraordinarily scenic mountain ranges, some peaks reaching as high as 20,000 feet, Nuristan’s beauty is matched equally by the ferocity of its terrain.

A seemingly endless series of near-vertical slopes surrounding deep valleys create a foreboding and challenging environment within which to conduct any military operation. Elements of the 10th Mountain Division, 173rd Airborne, 1st Infantry Division, 101st Airborne, and 4th Infantry Division rotated into and out of the area from 2006 until 2010 when conventional Army forces finally withdrew from the region as battlespace owners.

Beginning in 2002, United States Special Operations Forces conducted an untold number of raids, reconnaissance operations, and targeted strikes throughout the duration of the war in Afghanistan. I posted an article on the history of fighting in Nuristan on June 26, titled “Nuristan: Of Kipling and American Valor.” I highlight the history of the legendary Nuristani fighter and the ferocity with which the people of Nuristan are known to carry out defensive actions to protect their villages and families. In the companion to that article, I published a piece at Foreign Intrigue on why aid and development in Nuristan matters: “Nuristan Province: Conflict, Reconciliation, and Development.”

In the latter article, I make particular note of the value of Nuristani women in the battle against a resurgent Taliban movement in the eastern portions of Afghanistan. Women are especially and notoriously deprived of basic rights and medical care in Nuristan. Organizations like The Nooristan Foundation have dedicated incredible amounts of resources and assets to improving the quality of life for Nuristani women. Among the areas upon which the foundation specifically focuses its efforts is the building of simple infrastructure in the province, provisions for basic medical care for women and girls, and the building blocks for educational facilities that could move a marginalized population to literacy: