The Taliban launched another coordinated assault against Afghan military installations in the southern province of Kandahar today. At least one dozen Afghan soldiers are reported to have been killed in the fighting.
Security officials told TOLONews that 18 Afghan soldiers were killed, 16 were wounded, and four more were captured when Taliban fighters assaulted a base in the district of Shaw Wali Kot. Pajwhok Afghan News reported that “hundreds [of] militants were involved in the attack.”
In a statement released on its official propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban confirmed it attacked a military base in Shah Wali Kot. Additionally, the group said it overran two of the three “defensive check posts” in the district, and claimed that 35 Afghan soldiers were killed and seven more were captured. The Taliban also claimed that it captured seven “APCs,” which likely are Humvees, and an assortment of weapons.
Last night’s invasion is the latest in a string of assaults against Afghan military bases and security outposts in Kandahar over the past week. In the largest strike, on May 22 in Shaw Wali Kot, the Taliban claimed it killed 35 soldiers and overran a base. Afghan officials confirmed the base was overrun and said 11 soldiers were killed.
Additionally, the Taliban claimed it killed 40 more Afghan security personnel in attacks in Khakrez, Maiwand, Shorabak, and another operation in Shah Wali Kot. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban assaults Afghan Army bases in Kandahar.]
The Taliban is successfully using its safe havens in the remote areas of Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Ghazni, and Zabul to sustain its recent offensives in northern Kandahar. US and Afghan officials have downplayed the Taliban’s control of remote areas and have described the far-flung districts as “not important” and “less vital areas.”
The Taliban disagrees, and have stated the remote districts under its control are the lifeblood of its insurgency. “The Mujahideen have opened up operational lines between Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces and can throw its brunt at a time and place of its choosing,” the group stated after its fighters took control of Sangin in neighboring Helmand province in March. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, Taliban controls or contests 40 percent of Afghan districts: SIGAR and Capturing Sangin an ‘important victory,’ Taliban says.]
The Taliban is making inroads into Kandahar province. As of March 26, the Taliban claimed it controls four of Kandahar’s 18 districts (Ghorak, Miyanashin, Registan, and Shorabak) and heavily contests five more (Arghastan, Khakrez, Maruf, Maiwand, and Shahwalikot). FDD’s Long War Journal assesses the Taliban’s claim of control to be credible. Of the remaining nine districts, the Taliban says it does “not control any specific area” but “only carryout guerilla [sic] attacks.” If the Taliban was exaggerating its control in Kandahar, it likely would claim to control at least some areas of districts such as Panjwai and Zhari. Taliban founder and its first emir, Mullah Omar, founded the Taliban in Panjwai, and Zhari is considered the spiritual home of the group.
Kandahar is a strategic province for the Taliban, and is considered to be the birthplace of the group. The province borders Baluchistan, the Pakistani province that serves as the group’s safe haven as well as a prime recruitment center. Kandahar is also a key to the production and distribution of opium, a major source of the Taliban’s income.