Today an estimated 200 Taliban fighters overran a military outpost manned by what The New York Times called one of the Afghan Army’s “highly regarded” combat units. The Taliban attack took place at a small outpost in the Narai district that was maintained by soldiers from a battalion of the 201st Military Corps, Pajhwok Afghan News reported.
Reports indicate that 12 or 13 Afghan soldiers were killed and two more were captured by the Taliban. Five Taliban fighters were reported killed during the assault. The Taliban claimed the attack, and said 15 Afghan “puppet” soldiers were killed and the outpost was “burned down after it was conquered.”
The New York Times noted that the battalion was one of a few that have been rated to operate independently from ISAF military advisers:
Friday’s attack was on a battalion that was among only a handful of Afghan Army battalions rated by the United States military as independent and able to operate on their own without foreign advisers. It was one of two such battalions that had been deployed without advisers recently in Kunar Province, according to a military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject.
The Third Battalion was assigned to hold the Narai district, a rugged, mountainous area near the Pakistani border, on an important insurgent infiltration route.
Narai district directly borders Bajaur, a Pakistani tribal agency that is riddled with fighters from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Pakistani officials routinely allege that the Taliban harbor in Kunar, while Afghan officials claim the opposite is true and that attacks in Kunar come from fighters based in Bajaur. The reality is that they are both right, as Kunar and Bajaur are infested with both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters, as well as other jihadist groups such as al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba [The Long War Journal has documented numerous raids that targeted and captured or killed top al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders and operatives].
Security in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan province has deteriorated since US forces pulled back from isolated combat outposts in the area in 2009 and 2010 as part of a counterinsurgency plan backed by former generals McChrystal and Petraeus. The Taliban have overrun district centers in the two provinces ever since, while areas have fallen under the control of the Taliban, and training camps for al Qaeda have opened. The Long War Journal has warned of this result since 2009, when the US began pulling out of combat outposts after several were nearly overrun by hundreds of fighters from the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring, remote northeastern province of Badakhshan, the Taliban have taken control of at least one district, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has established a presence.