Taliban ambush policemen in northern Afghan province

The Taliban killed at least 20 Afghan policemen in an ambush in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan this week. The deadly ambush took place after Afghan officials announced the conclusion of an operation that supposedly cleared the area of the Taliban and resulted in the deaths of more than 50 Taliban fighters.

Both the head of the provincial council for Badakhshan and the district governor for Wardoj, where the military operation and the subsequent ambush took place, said that 23 Afghan policemen were killed, 21 were wounded, and another 24 are missing and thought to be held by the Taliban, according to TOLONews and Khaama.

The Taliban claimed to have killed “as many as 60 Arbakis [pro-government militias], ANA soldiers, and the police” during fighting yesterday, and an additional 25 security personnel on Wednesday, according to a statement released on Voice of Jihad. The Taliban routinely exaggerate the results of their operations.

Additionally, the “Mujahideen had captured 12 puppets [Afghan security personnel] on Wednesday’s fight with a further 14 arrested in Thursday’s chase operation taking the number of those captured to 26,” the Taliban stated.

This week’s ambush in Wardoj occurred just after the Afghan military and the International Security Assistance Force touted the success of Operation Hindu Kush, a nine-day-long operation that ended on Sept. 14.

The operation, led by Afghan National Army special forces and commandos, cleared “numerous Taliban strongholds in Badakhshan province’s Wardoj valley,” ISAF said in a press release announcing the end of the operation.

“The elite 5th Special Operations Kandak soldiers teamed up with fellow soldiers from the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps,” ISAF continued. “The combined Afghan force killed more than 50 enemy fighters, including Mullah Qasi, a Taliban sub-commander.”

ISAF also identified the Taliban’s shadow governor for Badakhshan as Qari Fasaihuddin, and claimed that the Taliban have been “uprooted” from his home village.

The Taliban denied that Wardoj was cleared, however.

“The Kabul administration claims that the local US lapdogs (puppet forces) defeated Mujahideen in the clearance operation are completely false as its the enemy that was cleared out of Wardoj district, to be precise,” the Taliban said at Voice of Jihad.

The police and military have claimed great success against the Taliban in Badakhshan this year. Afghan officials have said that more that 200 Taliban fighters have been killed in the province since April, according to a count by The Long War Journal. During an April operation in Wardoj that was similar to Hindu Kush, 100 Taliban fighters were supposedly killed. That same month, 16 Afghan soldiers were killed and 20 were captured.

The once-peaceful province of Badakhshan has become increasingly unstable over the past several years, as the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have exerted their influence in the remote northeastern area. The province was transferred from ISAF to Afghan control at the end of January 2012.

ISAF conducted eight raids against the IMU in Badakhshan between September 2011 and June 2012, and another in August 2010 that targeted a Taliban operative who aided “foreign fighters,” according to ISAF press releases compiled by The Long War Journal. The last reported operation against the IMU in the northern province took place on June 18, 2012; an IMU commander was killed and several fighters were captured. The IMU is known to have a presence in the districts of Argo, Faizabad, Kishim, Shahr-e-Buzurg, Surkh Rod, and Yaftal-e Sufla. In June this year, ISAF ceased issuing daily operational reports that detailed raids against al Qaeda and allied groups such as the IMU.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a key ally of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and has been involved in supporting their operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plotting attacks in Europe. The IMU is known to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and has integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the north [for more information on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan].

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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