Taliban assault government buildings in Kandahar

Yesterday the Taliban launched the first attack in their highly touted counteroffensive, which is known as Badar. A company-sized Taliban force that was grouped into at least eight teams attacked government buildings throughout Kandahar City. According to The Associated Press, six Taliban suicide bombers and fighters, a policeman, and a civilian were killed, while at least 29 Afghans were wounded.

Shooting started shortly after midday and lasted more than seven hours, while government forces were backed by military helicopters firing from overhead.

At least eight locations were attacked: the governor’s compound, the mayor’s office, the intelligence agency headquarters, three police stations and two high schools, according to government officials.

The assailants included at least five suicide attackers in bomb-rigged cars, three of whom were stopped by police before their explosives could go off, NATO forces said in a statement. In the end, none of the assaulted compounds was breached by the militants, NATO said.

About 40 to 60 insurgents were involved in the assault, according to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Webster Wright, a spokesman for NATO’s Regional Command Southeast. The rebel force was split into squad-sized units and may include more suicide bombers, Wright said.

Here is ISAF’s account of the “failed insurgent attack”:

Several additional attacks followed on the Afghanistan National Chief of Police Headquarters, the Transportation Police Headquarters, Police Sub-station One and various ANSF and ISAF buildings in Kandahar City and the Arghandab River Valley.

Reporting indicates that more than five suicide bombers utilizing vehicle-borne explosive devices were involved in the attack.

Afghan National Security Forces immediately responded to the attack, including preventing three vehicle-borne explosive devices from detonating. International Security Assistance Forces supported the Afghans by providing perimeter security in the area.

“This clearly was intended to be a spring offensive spectacular attack which was thwarted by Afghan National Security Forces,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James B. Laster, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Deputy Chief of Staff Joint Operations. “Initial reports indicate that between three and six suicide bombers were stopped – either detonating prematurely or being killed before they could detonate.”

According to reports, none of the insurgent attacks breached the perimeters of any of the compounds.

ISAF is technically correct: the Taliban failed to maneuver their suicide bombers to hit their targets, and the Taliban assault teams did not manage to penetrate security at the government installations. Nor did the attacks generate high numbers of casualties (unless you believe the fabrications at the Taliban’s website, Voice of Jihad, which claimed that 113 Afghan and 3 ISAF troops were killed). And, the Afghan security forces appear to have performed well, blunting the attacks after they began, with minimal civilians casualties, and sustaining the fight.

The intangible is how the Afghans in Kandahar will react to the assault. Yesterday’s attacks show that the Taliban were able to deploy a large force in the city and organize and execute their mission. In the past month in Kandahar City, the Taliban have assassinated the provincial police chief in a suicide attack in his office and sprung more than 500 Taliban fighters from a jail.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Marlin says:

    The attacks in Kandahar continue today.

    Sporadic gunbattles raged for a second day in Kandahar on Sunday as Afghan forces fought to snuff out Taliban attacks that have killed 18 people, including 14 insurgents.
    Nearly 50 people have been wounded in 24 hours since militiamen armed with suicide vests, guns and rocket-propelled grenades besieged targets including the governor’s office, police stations and the local intelligence headquarters.
    The attacks are the most significant since the Taliban last week announced the start of its annual spring offensive and vowed to step up their fight after US commandos killed Osama bin Laden in neighbouring Pakistan.

    Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) News: Taliban continue assault on Kandahar
    I find it understandable that the streets are supposedly deserted, but it would be nice to see them try to carry on with their normal lives. Not everyone in Afghanistan is still intimidated by the Taliban.

    More than 10,000 people gathered Thursday in Kabul to oppose reconciliation with the Taliban and the involvement of Pakistan in any peace deal, warning that it would be a betrayal of the Afghan people

  • Marlin says:

    The Guardian can’t help itself. It has to run a pro-Taliban article of pretty much complete nonsense. However, it does contain this worthwhile quote at the end. I’m not a fan of Ahmed Wali Karzai (the President’s brother) but in this case I suspect he’s the one closest to the truth. His ending sentences seems ‘spot on’.

    Meanwhile, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar’s provincial council, said the assault on the city was “not serious at all”, and that the situation was under control.
    “Everyone knows that these types of attacks, with suicide bombers and a few people hiding and shooting, are difficult to stop and can happen anywhere,” he said, adding that the attack had done nothing to undermine the security gains in the city and province in recent months.
    “The Taliban are desperate. They cannot do anything else but try to create news,” he said.

    Guardian: Taliban launch multi-pronged attack on city of Kandahar
    It’s also nice to hear from an independent Western source that the Afghan National Security Forces are performing well against these attacks in Kandahar.

    More violence in the city Sunday. Afghan National Security Forces continue to lead the response to insurgent attacks, according to Canadian military officers.

    National Post: Assignment Kandahar: Weekend attacks in the city, with new updates

  • kp says:

    I can’t really see these attacks as more than agitprop. They’re very clearly not being at all sucessful: no targets breeched or overrun; loss of 20 insurgents, multiple VBIEDs, for 5 police/ANA killed.

    The phrase “spectacular attack” rings hollow: spectacular failure? Is it ISAF/ANA tactics and security that’s defeating the attacks? Are they getting early warning (the VBIEDs all seem to have been stopped short) and so engaging early? Poor tactics from the attackers?

    It reminds me of all the attempted overrun attacks on COP and FOB that fail in a similar way.

    Remember the average number killed for a suicide attack (that usually uses a single bomb) is 11. These attacks seem to be minor league.

    Not being complacent but it seems that only a couple of years ago a rifle team + suicide bomber would kill quite a few people per attack.

    The main issue is how are they able to disengage and escape? Are the US ROE in cites so restricted that zero airpower can be used? Or not hanging around for the ISAF to properly engage them(“with limited ISAF assistance”).

    The four captured alive (including 1 Pakistani) will probably yield some interesting intel.

  • Neo says:

    Well, they got a two day skirmish out of this. Forget the mini Tet offensive. This is a micro mini Tet offensive. The prison break was major though.


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