The Taliban have claimed credit for two suicide assaults on a US base and an Afghan police checkpoint in Kandahar earlier today. Both of the attacks were repelled, resulting in the deaths of 11 Taliban fighters and three Afghan policemen.
The first attack took place in the early morning at a US combat outpost in the village of Delhi Band in Kandahar’s Shah Wali Kot district. Taliban fighters, who, according to The Associated Press, were aided by at least one person dressed in an Afghan police uniform, launched the attack on the US base at 3:30 a.m. local time.
Seven Taliban fighters, some of whom were wearing suicide vests, were killed, and 10 US soldiers were wounded in the fighting, Afghan officials told Pajhwok Afghan News.
The second attack took place at sunrise on a police checkpoint in the Dand district in Kandahar. The Taliban fighters, armed with assault rifles and suicide vests, attempted to overrun the police checkpoint but were stopped. The Taliban fighters in the Dand assault were “dressed in Afghan police uniforms,” TOLONews reported. Four Taliban fighters and three policemen were killed during the attack.
The Taliban took credit for both suicide assaults, in a statement released on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad. The Taliban claimed that “40 invaders,” or US soldiers, and “70 hireling troops,” or Afghan security personnel, were killed in the fighting. The Taliban routinely exaggerate the number of Coalition and Afghan forces killed during their operations.
In the statement, the Taliban also claimed that two of the three policemen who killed an ISAF soldier in Zhari district yesterday defected to the Taliban.
“These attacks took place one day after an attack inside a check post by 3 Afghan police on the invaders in Sanzari area of [Zhari] district in which 5 invaders were killed and 12 others wounded,” the statement said. “One of the police officer was later martyred by an IED as all three came out of the check post with seized military equipment whereas the 2 others successfully joined the Mujahideen and gave up the spoils.”
Today’s suicide assaults in Kandahar are the first in the province since June 6, when the Taliban launched a complex attack against an Afghan Army base in Kandahar. Twenty-one Afghans were killed in the attack.
The Taliban last launched a suicide assault on a US base on June 1, when Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province came under attack and Taliban fighters breached the wire. Fourteen Taliban fighters, seven civilian workers, and a US soldier were killed in the attack; more than 100 US soldiers were wounded. The blast from a car bomb leveled the PX and the dining facility.
Mullah Dadullah Front likely carried out suicide assaults
Today’s suicide assaults in Kandahar were likely carried out by the Mullah Dadullah Front, a powerful wing of the Taliban in the south that has adopted al Qaeda’s tactics and ideology. The Mullah Dadullah Front is led by none other than Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who has since been promoted as the Taliban’s top military commander and co-leader of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura. In December 2010, Coalition and Afghan special operations troops captured a senior Mullah Dadullah Front financier and weapons facilitator.
Zakir and other Taliban leaders operate from the Pakistani border city of Chaman in Baluchistan, as the location shields them from US and NATO operations. The Taliban maintain a command and control center in Chaman, but the Pakistani military and intelligence services have refused to move against the Taliban there.
The Mullah Dadullah Front operates largely in the southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan, and is considered the most effective and dangerous Taliban group in the region. The group has been active in attempting to sabotage negotiations between the Afghan government and lower-level Taliban leaders and fighters in the south.
The Taliban subgroup has executed numerous complex attacks, suicide assaults, and assassinations in the region. In mid-May, the Mullah Dadullah Front claimed credit for the assassination of a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council in Kabul.
Zakir is also responsible for a purge of Taliban leaders who have conducted negotiations with the Afghan government, including Mohammad Ismail, the former Deputy Military Council Chairman for the Taliban’s Quetta Shura.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.