The Afghan National Army killed 25 Taliban fighters after being ambushed and fighting a 10-hour battle in the northwestern province of Badghis. The attack in Badghis is the latest in a series of Taliban attempts to rout Afghan forces and overrun district centers and forward operating bases.
“At least 25 Taliban were killed and many were wounded in several hours of fighting after the Taliban attacked our troops,” Mohammad Ayob Niazyar, the Badghis provincial police chief told AFP.
Afghan troops repelled the Taliban ambush in the district of Muqur, which borders Iran. Afghan police and Spanish soldiers operating in the area provided backup for the Afghan soldiers and routed the company-sized Taliban force. “Twelve bodies of militants were left on the field and many others were wounded during the fight,” according to The Associated Press. No Afghan or Spanish casualties were reported.
The Taliban have opened a new front in the northwestern provinces of Badghis and neighboring Faryab province. “We are trying to open up this route just as we did in the past,” said Mullah Dastagir, an influential Taliban commander in Badghis, during an interview with IWPR last November. “Our policy is different up here. We have openly engaged the government and foreign forces in the south, but in the north we are quietly expanding our area. The government is weaker here than in the south and the mountains have provided good terrain for our operations.”
The Taliban have maintained a presence in northwestern Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban government in late 2001. “The Taliban have never been fully evicted from the Bala Murghab, Ghurmach, and Qades districts and analysts believe the Taliban have patiently set up a complex intelligence and support network that reaches deep into neighboring Faryab province,” Matt Dupee said in a report on the security situation in Badghis in December 2007.
The provincial government has worked with Spanish troops operating in Badghis in an attempt to improve the security situation. Afghan forces captured Dastagir in neighboring Herat province.
The Taliban modify tactics
The Taliban are using smaller forces than attacks in the previous years. In 2006 and 2007, the Taliban would mass battalion-sized forces of several hundreds of fighters to attack NATO and Afghan forces. The formations were easy prey for Coalition airpower, and the Taliban often took more than 100 casualties during a single engagement.
This year, the Taliban have sent smaller, company-sized elements of 50 to 100 fighters to conduct attacks. The units are often supported with mortar, rocket, and machinegun teams. But the Taliban forces have still taken frightening casualties – often over 50 percent of the force killed in a single engagement – with little to show in return. Coalition and Afghan forces take few or no casualties during the ambushes and massed attacks.
Seven Taliban killed after ambush in Paktika
The Taliban continue their attacks in eastern Afghanistan. Afghan soldiers killed seven Taliban after their convoy was ambushed in the Sar Hawza district in Paktika province. “Their bodies were left on the battlefield,” a spokesman for the provincial governor told AFP.
The Taliban have launched a series of attacks against district centers and Afghan and Coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan. Paktika, Paktia, and Khost provinces have seen an increase in attacks over the past two weeks. The Taliban are attempting to destabilize the eastern region and overrun Afghan government centers. Many of the attacks have originated from Pakistan.
An estimated 33 Taliban were killed in a battle in the Spera district in Khost province on July 1. Twenty-two Taliban were killed after Afghan police repelled attacks on two district centers in Paktika province and one in Paktia province on the night of June 24. Earlier that same day, a large Taliban force made up of Afghan, Arab, and Chechen fighters attacked a district center in Paktia. Afghan and US forces killed 16 Taliban during the attack.
US and Afghan forces killed 55 Taliban and wounded another 25 during a massed attack on a patrol in neighboring Paktika province on June 20.
Two large-scale rocket and mortar attacks were launched from Pakistani soil during the same timeframe. On June 27, a Taliban rocket team fired at a US outpost in Paktika province. The Taliban also fired rockets at a US base in Paktika on June 21. One Afghan woman and three children were killed in the attack. US forces launched artillery at Taliban positions inside Pakistan after both attacks.
The three provinces border Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan in Pakistan. The Taliban, led by Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan and the Haqqani family in North Waziristan, use the tribal agencies as bases to attack US and Afghan forces.
US forces have singled out the Haqqanis as a major threat in eastern Afghanistan. Siraj Haqqani is one of the most wanted men in the region because of his close links with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Taliban attacks in eastern Afghanistan have increased by 40 percent since last year, Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force-101, said during a briefing on June 24. While the attacks are “not really effective in lethality” they are “increasingly more complex.”
The strikes are originating in Pakistan, Schloesser said, noting that the “enemy’s taking refuge and operating with what I will call some freedom of movement in the border region, and they’re using this sanctuary to reconstitute, to plan and to launch attacks into Afghanistan.”