The Taliban overran an Afghan army base in Kandahar last night and killed, wounded or captured all but two of the troops stationed there. The attack is the latest in the southern province, where the Taliban has stepped up its attacks on Afghan military outposts.
The Taliban opened the nighttime attack on the base, which is located in Maiwand district, by detonating a HUMVEE packed with explosives on the perimeter, Afghan officials told TOLONews. A Taliban assault team then entered the outpost and battled the surviving Afghan forces.
The Afghan forces based there took nearly 100 percent casualties in the attack. Of the 60 soldiers at the base, 43 were killed, nine were wounded, and six more “are unaccounted for,” according to TOLONews.
However, Afghan officials claimed the base did not fall to the Taliban.
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack in a statement released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, and reported that the “battalion was completely overrun after killing 60 puppets [Afghan soldiers] and destroying 5 APCs [armored personnel vehicles].” The Taliban also claimed it seized weapons and an armored personnel carrier after the attack.
The Taliban has recently overrun military bases in nearby districts in Kandahar. In July, The Taliban stormed an encampment in Khakrez and looted it before withdrawing. Fifty-seven of the 82 soldiers stationed at the base were killed, wounded or captured during the fighting. In May, Taliban fighters killed dozens of Afghan troops in two separate attacks on bases in Shah Wali Kot.
The Taliban has stepped up its attacks on Afghan security forces and has attempted to retake ground in Kandahar province that was lost years ago in the surge. As of March 26, the Taliban claimed to control five of Kandahar’s 18 districts (Ghorak, Miyanashin, Registan, Shorabak, and Maruf) and heavily contest four more (Arghastan, Khakrez, Maiwand, and Shahwalikot). FDD’s Long War Journal assesses the Taliban’s claims of control to be credible. Of the remaining nine districts, the Taliban says it does “not control any specific area” but “only carryout [sic] guerilla attacks.” If the Taliban was exaggerating its control in Kandahar, it likely would claim to control or contest at least some areas of districts such as Panjwai and Zhari – since Taliban founder and its first emir, Mullah Omar, started 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.
The Taliban, which remains closely allied with al Qaeda, has taken advantage of the security situation in Kandahar province to established bases. Up until Oct. 2015, al Qaeda ran two large training camps in Shorabak district. US forces killed more than 150 al Qaeda fighters while raiding the camps.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.