Taliban claim attacks in western Afghan city of Herat

The Taliban have launched a pair of attacks, inducing a suicide assault, in another major Afghan city. Today the Taliban detonated a bomb in the center of Herat, the provincial capital, while a suicide assault team attacked the Provincial Reconstruction Team on the outskirts of the city.

The Taliban opened the attack with a large car bomb in a crowded area of the city. Shortly afterward a suicide assault team attacked the headquarters of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, which is run by Italian troops. At least two suicide bombers detonated their vests while they attempted to breach the compound as another group of fighters took control of a multi-story building and fired into the base.

Afghan security forces said they have killed four Taliban fighters and are still fighting the others. The remaining Taliban fighters are said to have taken a family hostage.

Five people, including an Afghan soldier, have been reported killed so far and more than 30 people have been wounded in the pair of attacks.

A Taliban spokesman claimed credit for the Herat attacks. “Our mujahideen are working on the operation in Herat,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP.

The Taliban have launched one other attack against an international base in Herat in the past eight months. On Oct. 23, 2010, a suicide assault team failed in its attempt to storm the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

Both the October 2010 attack and today’s assault were likely executed by Taliban fighters under the command of Samihullah, who leads a group of fighters known as the Mujahideen of Herat. Samihullah is closely allied with al Qaeda and works with the Ansar Corps, the Iranian Qods Force sub-command that directs Iranian operations in Afghanistan. Samihullah is known to facilitate the movement of al Qaeda fighters from Iran into Afghanistan.

Today’s attack is the latest in the Taliban’s so-called Badar spring offensive. In the last attack, on May 28, the Taliban killed the Afghan police’s top regional commander for the north and Takhar’s police chief along with two German soldiers and two Afghans, and wounded the governor of Takhar and NATO’s top general for Regional Command North. On May 22, a suicide assault team attacked a police headquarters in Khost, killing six people in a battle that lasted for several hours. On May 21, a Taliban suicide bomber killed six people in the cafeteria of a Kabul hospital used by Afghan forces. Other major Taliban attacks in the last two weeks include an ambush that killed 35 road workers and guards in Paktika; a suicide attack that killed 13 people in Nangarhar; an IED attack that killed eight US soldiers in Kandahar, and another IED attack that killed four ISAF troops in the south.

Background on the Taliban’s spring offensive

The Taliban are seeking to roll back Afghan and Coalition gains made in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar over the past year, as well as to reinforce the perception that Taliban forces can strike in all areas of Afghanistan. The Taliban are also trying to break the will of the Afghan security forces as well as intimidate local Afghans.

In their announcement of the Badar offensive, the Taliban said the primary targets would be “foreign invading forces, members of their spy networks and (other) spies, high-ranking officials of the Kabul Puppet Administration, both military and civilian, members of the cabinet, members of the parliament, Heads of foreign and local companies working for the enemy and contractors.” The Afghan High Peace Council was also singled out.

The Taliban said Badar would focus on “military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country.” Their tactics would include “group and martyrdom seeking attacks,” or suicide attacks and assaults; “group offensives,” or massed assaults; “city attacks,” ambushes, and IED attacks.

The Taliban also said that “strict attention must be paid to the protection and safety of civilians during the spring operations by working out a meticulous military plan.”

The Taliban maintain they have no shortage of suicide bombers to carry out attacks. In April, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban claimed that more than 1,000 suicide bombers train at camps in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan.

The Pakistani government refuses to strike the terror groups in North Waziristan despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations in North Waziristan, as well as requests by the US that action be taken against these groups. The Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a senior Taliban commander in North Waziristan, or the Haqqani Network, which is also based there. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Yet Bahadar, the Haqqanis, and other Taliban groups openly shelter groups that carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


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 Taliban are certainly making every effort to sell themselves as an effective force via their ‘spring offensive’. It will be interesting for me to see if the ISAF continues to fight them aggressively or allows them to ‘win’ by putting the Afghan forces in charge. Only short time ago I would have bet on the latter. Now though I’m beginning to wonder if maybe the ISAF (with even some of the European countries providing the spine) will continue to confront them aggressively.

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  • Graham says:

    Bill, it seems like the Taliban is targeting the other NATO allies…Like the Germans a few days ago, and now the Italians. I think the idea is that they are trying to pressure them into withdrawing and therefore increasing the burden on America.

  • HunterB says:

    No Graham, deep down inside they’re afraid of America. That’s why they’ve spent the majority of the war hiding in caves and mountains, planting bombs in roads, talking all kinds of crap about america behind the internet and media reporters, then turning around and killing they’re own people, and mostly, allies of america and the soldiers we are training to defend their country from them and calling it “revenge.” Pure cowards. They’re like the kid in highschool that goes around telling everybody he’s gonna kick the crap out of the 6 and a half foot lineman on the football team, then when it comes crunch time, they dont show up to school for over a week.

  • Abu Samuel says:

    Sorry HunterB but generalizing about the Taliban and alleging cowardice on the basis of their tactics is mistaken. It is important to remember that there are three types of Taliban:
    Type 1: Will likely never surrender/give up the cause and see continuing to fight as a religious duty.
    Type 2: Following a wide range of motivations from nationalism, anger at poppy eradication, these men are more open to negotiations or intimidation into inactivity
    Type 3: Men who because of their poverty or sense of adventure are willing to engage in combat or plant IED’s in exchange for money.
    While some of these Taliban (often Types 2 and 3) might be unwilling to fight face-to-face an enemy who can bring down on them a hail of fire an steel like some vengeful god, others especially those of Type 1 have demonstrated over and over again their skill and bravery in battle.
    Also the ‘tactics’ of intimidating and murdering civilians through the use of suicide bombings, IED’s or assassinations are used because the Taliban want to win and don’t care about the cost in human life. These tactics are murderous and inhuman but are chosen because of their effectiveness.
    This attack, given the small numbers involved, was meant to be a ‘message’ from the Taliban indicating that they are undefeated and can strike anywhere at will. It is intended to do to the West what the killing and intimidating Afghan civilians does in a small village- destroy out the will to resist and accept the ‘inevitability’ of a Taliban victory.
    Lets not make the mistake of considering our enemies cowards but rather view them as they are: an often brave, resourceful and ruthless foe.

  • Graham says:

    HunterB, I don’t understand where you’re coming from. I was speculating that the reason the insurgents were attacking the Germans and Italians is to put pressure on those countries to pull out of the war, so that the U.S military has to extend more of it’s forces into Herat/Kunduz/ETC. Remember, even if the European allies have less troops and a stricter ROE, a little bit of international help goes a long way.


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