Taliban launch suicide assault on ISAF PRT in Ghazni
The Taliban launched two suicide attacks on Coalition forces in Afghanistan today, including an assault on the Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Ghazni province in the southeast. In the other attack, a suicide bomber struck a convoy in Helmand province.
The Taliban suicide assault team attacked the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghazni in the afternoon. According to Xinhua, two suicide bombers detonated outside the main gate, enabling a team of Taliban fighters to enter the perimeter, take control of a building inside the compound, and open fire on military and civilian personnel.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that "enemy forces" attacked a Coalition base in Ghazni.
"We can confirm enemy forces attacked a forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan today with a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, indirect fire and small arms fire," ISAF told The Long War Journal. "Currently, we are in the process of assessing the situation and will release more operational information as appropriate."
Four Afghan civilians, three police officers, and 10 Taliban fighters were killed in the attack, according to The Associated Press. ISAF later reported that one soldier was killed. Ten Polish soldiers were also wounded in the attack.
The Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghazni is manned by US and Polish forces as well as civilian experts. Its mission is to provide assistance to Afghan civilians and the government in the province.
The Taliban have used suicide attacks against PRT officials in the past. In April, a Taliban suicide bomber killed three US soldiers, a State Department official, and a Defense Department official from the PRT in Zabul as they were driving in the capital of Qalat. Four more State personnel were wounded in the blast.
In the attack in Helmand today, a Taliban suicide bomber targeted a US military convoy in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. Five Afghan civilians were killed and more than 15 were wounded, according to Xinhua. An armored vehicle was damaged in the attack.
Ghazni remains a battleground as Coalition forces continue to withdraw
With the transfer of control from the Coalition to Afghan security forces and the drawdown of Coalition personnel, violence in Ghazni province has spiked. So far in August, the Taliban have kidnapped a female member of parliament and two other civilians in the province, and then later offered to exchange the captives for eight Taliban fighters currently in prison. The Taliban have also kidnapped and then executed eight other civilians in Ghazni. Additionally, a Polish soldier was recently killed in a Taliban attack.
The Afghan military and police claim to have killed 36 Taliban fighters in Ghazni since Aug. 18. But in one of the reports, which said that security forces killed 20 Taliban fighters, the police admitted that four police personnel had been killed and policemen had abandoned several outposts during a Taliban assault.
Ghazni is a known Taliban and al Qaeda hub in the southeast. Senior Taliban, al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan commanders are known to operate in the province.
Last September, the governor of Ghazni said the Taliban were bringing in "foreign militants" into the province, and the deputy chief of the Ghazni provincial council said that a large number of Pakistanis are fighting in Ghazni. Additionally, a US military commander who operated in the southeastern province in 2011 said that foreign trainers, including Arabs, Chechens, and Pakistanis operate in Ghazni while Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate is sabotaging Coalition efforts in the province.
Al Qaeda operatives and leaders often serve as embedded military trainers for Taliban field units and impart tactics and bomb-making skills to these forces. In addition, al Qaeda frequently supports the Taliban by funding operations and providing weapons and other aid. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda's paramilitary 'Shadow Army,' for more information on al Qaeda's role in Afghanistan.]
Over the past several years, a number of al Qaeda leaders and operatives have been killed or captured in Ghazni. Aafia Siddiqui, an American-educated Pakistani scientist who has been dubbed "Lady al Qaeda" by the press, was captured in Ghazni in 2008. At least six other al Qaeda operatives have been captured, and another has been killed, in the province [see LWJ report, ISAF targets al Qaeda-linked Taliban operative in Afghan southeast].
For more information on foreign fighters operating in Ghazni, see LWJ report, 'Foreign militants' still present in Ghazni.