The Taliban overran a military base in the remote northern Afghan province of Badakhshan this weekend, capturing more than 100 police and tribal fighters before disarming and freeing them.
Taliban fighters began their assault on the Qala base in the embattled district of Warduj beginning on July 24, according to the jihadist group and Afghan press reports. The base was overrun by July 25, but the Afghan government and the Taliban differ on the reasons why.
Afghan officials claimed that a police commander known as Amanullah and his officers defected to the Taliban, TOLONews reported.
“Amanullah head of the border police in the military base made a deal with the Taliban insurgents because the military base did not have any problems and they had all the equipment,” a spokesman for the provincial chief of police said.
The Taliban claimed credit for the assault in a statement that was released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, but did not give any indication that the police defected. Instead the Taliban said the assault force detained “110 hireling ANA [Afghan soldiers], police and Arbaki militiamen.” Additionally the Taliban said it seized “10 PKM machine guns, 10 RPG launchers, 90 rifles, 3 Dshk heavy machine guns, 2 mortar tubes, an artillery piece as well as a large amount of ammunition and other military gear.”
The Taliban also said it overran “6 check posts near the base” and drove Afghan security forces from 12 nearby villages, putting the jihadist group in effective contol of Warduj.
“The enemy now only controls small pockets around the district center while the entire district is currently under the control of Islamic Emirate,” according to the Taliban statement.
The Taliban’s claims cannot be independently verified. But Afghan press reports do back the Taliban’s assertion that it seized the base, captured the Afghan security personnel, and confiscated their weapons. A provincial official told Khaama Press that 107 security personnel captured at the base have subsequently been freed and the facility remains under Taliban control.
Badakhshan, which had been a relatively peaceful province up until several years ago, has become a battleground for the Taliban and its allies. The Islamic Jihad Union, an al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group, said it has deployed fighters to the province as part of the Taliban’s “Azm” offensive. The districts of Jurm, Warduj, and Yamgan have shifted between government and Taliban control several times over the past year. The Taliban have taken advantage of the government’s inability to maintain security in the remote, mountainous province.
The Taliban have publicized much of the recent fighting in Badakhshan. In a video released in May, the Taliban highlighted the fighting in Warduj and Yamgan districts. Qari Fasehuddin, the Taliban shadow governor for Badakhshan who is said to have 1,000 fighters under his command, was featured in the video. [See LWJ report, Former Taliban shadow governor appears in new propaganda video depicting recent combat in Badakhshan province.]
The fighting in Badakhshan almost backfired on the Taliban after fighters beheaded seven Afghan soldiers this spring. After widespread condemnation in the media, the jihadist group felt obligated to issue an official statement admitting the beheadings were wrong, but then placed the blame for the grisly acts on the Afghan military, claiming its forces executed Taliban fighters and civilians. [See LWJ report, Taliban admit to beheading Afghan soliders ‘in revenge’.]