The Taliban have launched another failed attack, this time in the northern Afghan province of Jawzjan. Yesterday, a large Taliban unit, estimated at more than 100 fighters strong riding on motorcycles, attacked a village whose leaders sought to join the much-maligned Afghan Local Police program [see LWJ report, Afghan Local Police vital to General Petraeus’ strategy, for more information on this force]. From The Associated Press:
About 100 Taliban fighters on motorcycles attacked a northern Afghan village that was working to join the government-sponsored local police program against the insurgency, killing one villager, police said Wednesday. An ensuing battle also left 17 militants dead.
The Tuesday evening attack sparked a gunfight that raged intensely for two hours and then continued with sporadic shooting until just before dawn on Wednesday, said Abdul Aziz Ghyrat, the police chief for Jawzjan province.
“They targeted Abduraman village. The people there planned to join the local police and the Taliban had heard about this plan,” Ghyrat said.
The Afghan Local Police, or ALP, is a controversial new program that encourages villages to select a group of local men to be trained and equipped by the Afghan government to fight the Taliban. Its American and Afghan backers argue that the force is needed to defend areas that are under threat from the Taliban but don’t have a strong formal police presence.
Critics, however, say the program essentially funds private militias.
The villagers in Abduraman fought the attackers themselves until reinforcements arrived in the form of Afghan police, army and NATO air support, Ghyrat said.
At the end of the fighting, one villager and 17 militants were dead, he said. Among the dead militants was a local Taliban commander who had planned bombings and attacks in the region, he added.
Attacks like this one are part of the Taliban’s highly-touted spring offensive. In another attack yesterday, a large Taliban force (estimated at between 200 and 400 fighters) failed to overrun a district center and police outposts in Nuristan. And over the weekend, a two-day-long Taliban terror assault in Kandahar City, carried out by an estimated 100 Taliban fighters, also failed.
The attacks show that the Taliban are still capable of massing large numbers of fighters in different areas of the country. Except in remote areas of Kunar and Nuristan, however, the Taliban are unable to beat Coalition and Afghan forces in head-to-head fights.
After nearly 10 years of fighting, the Taliban are well aware of their limitations in slugging it out with Western forces. The Taliban’s leaders know that the likelihood of success of these massed assaults is very low. But the Taliban aren’t looking for a military victory; the aim of these attacks is to prove they can project power throughout the country, despite Coalition and Afghan gains. The Taliban want to remind Afghans that as NATO forces begin their withdrawal, the Taliban will still be there.
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