Taliban launch offensive in province outside of Kabul
More than 700 Taliban fighters are reported to have launched a major assault on Afghan government and security forces' positions in the province of Logar, which is just south of Kabul. From Reuters:
"There are some 700 of them and they are fighting Afghan forces for territorial control and they have also brought with them makeshift mobile (health) clinics," Niaz Mohammad Amiri, the provincial governor of Logar province, told Reuters by telephone.
The Taliban have dug-in in Logar, which lies about an hour's drive south of Kabul, and nearby Wardak province to the west, in recent years. They have used the provinces - gateways to the capital - as launchpads for hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings on Kabul.
The main roads into the capital are all tightly controlled, but the militants have still been able to breach the checkpoints and staged dozens of attacks, killing scores of civilians and soldiers in the city of about five million this year.
Abdul Hakim Esaaqzai, the police chief of Logar province, said the insurgents, armed with heavy machine guns, were fighting Afghan forces from residential areas in Charkh district.
The Taliban are clearly preparing to battle the Afghan military in the open after the US and NATO forces draw down to levels at which they cannot provide meaningful support. The Taliban have launched similar massed attacks in the provinces of Helmand, Nangarhar, and Ghor over the past several months. Coalition forces have done little to turn the tide in those engagements.
The Taliban are said to control Sangin district in Helmand months after launching their attack in mid-June. The Afghan military and government have been unable to dislodge the Taliban from Sangin, and are now conducting peace talks with the group.
The Taliban have remained in Logar despite US and Afghan military operations in the province during the surge. In 2010, a US military official told The Long War Journal that the Taliban in Logar were "decimated" after raids over a short period of time killed or captured the three successive military leaders of the group in the province.
Logar province is a known haven for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, including the Haqqani Network. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the district of Pul-e 'Alam; or one of Logar's five districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.
Over the past several years, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network have taken control of areas in Logar and neighboring Wardak province, and have used these safe havens to launch attacks into Kabul.