The Taliban claimed credit for an ambush of a NATO supply column in western Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of seven Afghan security guards, two soldiers, and dozens of Taliban fighters.
The attack took place yesterday in the Gulistan district of Farah province. A large, heavily armed Taliban force estimated at between 70 and 80 fighters ambushed a convoy traveling from Herat to a base in Helmand province, according to The New York Times.
Seven Afghan guards from two security companies, Arya Security Company and GFI Security, and two Afghan soldiers were killed in the clash, along with 30 Taliban fighters. Coalition strike aircraft and Afghan police forces also participated in the fighting.
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack in a statement that was released on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad.
“Nearly 40 puppets [Afghan security forces] including their commander (Muhammad Nabi Khan) were killed, 10 others wounded and 5 enemy vehicles were also shot and destroyed with RPG fire,” the statement said. The Taliban claimed that only “6 Mujahideen were martyred … and 12 were injured whereas 10 motorbikes of Mujahideen were also destroyed.” The Taliban routinely exaggerate the effects of their operations.
A US military officer based in western Afghanistan voiced concern over the ambush, noting that the attack demonstrates that the Taliban can still organize attacks with large numbers of fighters.
“The Taliban are still able to mass forces at select targets in the south and west, even with our increased force presence in the area,” the officer told The Long War Journal. “As we draw down forces here in the southwest and transfer responsibility to the ANSF [Afghan national Security Forces], the threat against our supply lines may increase.”
Farah province is a known haven for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, and is a main transit point for foreign fighters and Iranian aid flowing into Afghanistan. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Bakwah, Balu Barak, Farah, Gulistan, and Pusht-e Rod; or five of Farah’s 11 districts.
Iran’s Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has backed al Qaeda and the Taliban’s operations in western Afghanistan, according to the International Security Assistance Force as well as the US government. The Qods Force has tasked the Ansar Corps, a subcommand, with aiding the Taliban and other terror groups in Afghanistan. Based in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, the Ansar Corps operates much like the Ramazan Corps, which supports and directs Shia terror groups in Iraq [see LWJ report, Iranian Qods Force commanders linked to Taliban: US Treasury, for more information on the Ansar Corps and Iran’s support for the Taliban].
ISAF targeted Iranian-supported Taliban commanders in at least 14 raids in the western provinces of Farah, Nimroz, Herat, and Ghor between June 2009 and February 2011, according to Coalition press releases compiled by The Long War Journal.
In early February 2011, ISAF inexplicably stopped reporting on raids against Iranian-supported Taliban and al Qaeda commanders. When The Long War Journal inquired about the sudden halt in reports on Qods Force-linked commanders in the Afghan west, ISAF claimed it does not discuss issues related to Iran.
“As policy, IJC [ISAF Joint Command] does not discuss Iran,” Lieutenant Commander Katie Kendrick, an ISAF Public Affairs Officer, told The Long War Journal in February 2011, despite the fact that ISAF had indeed mentioned the Qods Force in its press releases and well as in followup inquiries. Further inquiries to ISAF about the sudden change in policy on discussing Iran’s links to terror activities in Afghanistan have gone unanswered.