World News

Taliban Kill Over 100 Afghan Soldiers and Police Officers in 1 Week

Posted May 13, 2018 6:43 p.m. EDT
Updated May 13, 2018 6:48 p.m. EDT

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A spring offensive by Taliban insurgents has resulted in a series of attacks across Afghanistan, killing about 100 soldiers and police officers in the past week, according to officials. In the latest attack, on government offices in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, at least 12 people were said to have been killed.

In a separate episode, an Afghan military helicopter crashed early Sunday morning in the southern province of Helmand, and Taliban insurgents posted video of the mangled remains, claiming to have shot it down.

In Zabul province, also in the south, a week of heavy fighting left 70 police officers dead, local officials said. In Farah province, in the west, at least 15 officers were killed in four recent attacks, according to provincial officials. And in the northern province of Baghlan, a senior security official said that at least 44 soldiers and police officers were killed last week when insurgents seized control of a district government compound.

The increased tempo of attacks appeared to be part of an offensive announced by the Taliban on April 25 in a statement rejecting recent government peace overtures.

The fighting in Jalalabad, in Nangahar province, continued late into Sunday, with an additional 42 people wounded, according to Attaullah Khogyani, the spokesman for the governor. He said the fighting ended when police officers killed the last of five gunmen who had holed up in the office of the province’s finance director; a sixth assailant had died earlier when he detonated explosives in the car he was driving. Khogyani added that the government building had caught fire during the fighting.

The provincial finance director, Abdullah Raqibi, was not in his office at the time of the attack, officials said.

In Helmand, Maj. Abdul Qadir Bahadurzai, a spokesman for the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps there, said that one of its Mi-17s, a Russian-made military helicopter, made a forced landing because of technical problems early Sunday in the district of Nahri Saraj. He said that all of those on board had been rescued by another helicopter. The Mi-17 is generally used as a troop transport by the Afghan army.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed the insurgents had shot the helicopter down, killing many of the Afghan Special Forces soldiers who the Taliban said were aboard. Mujahid posted what we he said was a video of the crash on his Twitter account.

In Zabul province, Taliban insurgents overran four police outposts Friday, killing 20 officers, according to Atta Jan Haqbayan, head of the provincial council. The insurgents remained in control of the bases they had captured, he said. That brought to 70 the number of officers killed in the past week in at least four districts across Zabul, Haqbayan said. He added that 80 insurgents were believed to have been killed as well.

In Farah province, insurgents mounted at least four separate attacks on police outposts Thursday, killing 18 officers and wounding many others, said Dadullah Qani, a member of the provincial council there. Nasir Ahmad Mehri, a spokesman for the provincial governor, put the number of police officers killed in the fighting at 15.

Details of the attacks in Zabul and Farah were confirmed Sunday.

Also last week, the insurgents captured two districts separated by 300 miles in northern and western Afghanistan on Tuesday. One of those, Bal Chiragh in western Faryab province, was recaptured by Afghan Special Forces on Wednesday, officials said. The other, Tala Wa Barfak, in Baghlan province, remained under Taliban control, cutting a strategic highway, according to officials.

A senior security official in Baghlan province said that the Tala Wa Barfak fight had killed 44 Afghan soldiers and police officers, with another 36 soldiers and officers listed as missing, out of 150 who had been trying to defend the area. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because his account contradicted the government’s version.

Officially, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, said 10 soldiers had been killed in Tala Wa Barfak, adding that government forces would soon retake the district. “We are working to fix the roads,” he said. “The enemy dug tunnels and ditches on the roads to Tala Wa Barfak so that our vehicles cannot cross. Once we fix those roads we will take back that district, too.” The Taliban now control 14 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, with another 46 districts under the group’s influence, according to figures from a recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. government agency.

Since last year, the Afghan and U.S. governments have been classifying casualty figures for Afghan security forces, after they reached a high of 6,700 dead for the 2016-17 reporting year.

The Afghan interior minister, Wais Ahmad Barmak, acknowledged in a recent news conference that Taliban offensives were underway in many parts of the country.

He said the difficulty in responding was partly because of the season. “Sometimes, the bad weather causes problems for us, we can’t deploy reinforcements and can’t conduct airstrikes,” Barmak said. “We have been fighting five or 10 terrorist groups, and now these groups are supported by several countries, so whether we like it or not, the graph of threats goes up.”

He added that the government believed it had the conflict under control. “We are standing against them firmly and are fighting them off,” he said. “It’s a war situation.”

That was not the view of many officials in beleaguered provinces around the country. Haqbayan of Zabul province complained that the fighting there was so intense that last week the provincial police chief was briefly besieged by insurgents, who attacked a district he was visiting. “If the central government keeps ignoring Zabul province the way they have been doing, the Taliban will get the upper hand in several more districts,” Haqbayan said.

Officials in Farah province had a similar complaint and blamed their recent defeats on a lack of resources. Qani, the provincial council member, said it appeared that the Taliban had been diverting resources from Helmand to neighboring Farah, adding that the central government had not responded in kind.

“Residents of the province are worried about the security situation, which is getting worse day by day,” he said. “There is a lack of forces to fight against the Taliban, and also the foreign forces are not helping our Afghan forces any more.”