Afghan special forces hit hard in deadly Taliban ambush

The Taliban killed at least 10 Afghan commandos and several other security personnel during an ambush in Farah province last night. Security in Farah has been slipping over the past two years as the Taliban has focused efforts in the western province.

Taliban fighters ambushed the special forces unit that was partnered with local security forces that prepared to launch a raid in the Bala Buluk district of Farah, provincial officials told TOLONews. The number of casualties suffered by the combined Afghan force varies in Afghan press reports. However, officials from the Afghan Special Forces Unit confirmed that ten of its commandos were killed. Eight policemen were also killed and at least three more were captured by the Taliban during the fighting.

Afghan Special Forces Unit officials blamed the high number of casualties on a lack of air support and the failure of the Afghan military and police to provide reinforcements as the Taliban launched their attack, ATN News reported.

Afghanistan’s special forces have been at the tip of the spear in the fight against the Taliban. The loss of the commandos, who are considered to be the most effective and motivated of all of Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces, is a painful blow. Four other commandos were killed in a Taliban attack in Farah earlier this week.

Taliban spokesman Zabihulah Mujahideed claimed credit for the attack on his official Twitter account.

“Enemy forces that arrived at Tapa Sadat area of Farah Rod #Farah come under attacks, 53 hireling commandos killed/wounded & sizable amount weapons seized, rest trying to flee & Mujahidin in pursuit,” he wrote. Mujahidid also posted three photographs of weapons purportedly seized from the Afghan commandos during the ambush.

Given the effectiveness of the operation against Afghanistan’s elite forces, it is possible that the Taliban had inside help to carry out the attack. The Taliban has been adept at infiltrating Afghan security forces.

Security situation in Farah deteriorates

Security in Farah provinces has steadily deteriorated over the past two years. Farah City was one of five provinces that were under direct Taliban threat by the end of 2016. The Taliban remained on the outskirts of the city during 2017 and have continually harassed security forces throughout the province.

By mid-January 2018, Afghan officials have warned that the Taliban was no longer on the outskirts and has entered the city. The province’s deputy governor, Mohammad Younus Rasuli, criticized the security forces, which he said are taking heavy casualties.

“Currently security forces have not made any move to target the insurgents and our defensive status is also incorrect. In the last week only, over 50 security force members have been killed,” Rasuli, according to TOLONews.

At the end of January, Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan, the governor of Farah, quit, “because of the worsening security situation in Farah.” He partially blamed this on “interference in my responsibilities from various individuals,” Reuters reported.

Late last month, the Taliban overran a Afghan military base in Bala Buluk and killed upwards of 25 soldiers and captured three more. Just before that attack, the Taliban killed 20 policemen in three separate assaults in the province.

The Taliban has been flaunting its military strength in Farah. In Oct. 2017, the Taliban released a video of its fighters massing for a parade and speech by senior officials in the province, without fear of being targeted by either Afghan or Coalition forces. [See LWJ report, Taliban fighters mass in western Afghan province.]

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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3 Comments

  • irebukeu says:

    The blame for this disaster in the eyes of Afghans IMO will roll right down to the occupation forces who do not provide the equipment, support, training, and fail to appear as promised when the heat is on. The truth to the reality means nothing. Perceptions are everything.

    ‘No air support because the coalition hordes it for themselves’
    ‘No air support because they wont trust the Afghans with an airforce’
    ‘no helicopters because the Americans are busy flying the Taliban around’-They really say this. Many Afghans think Americans and the Taliban are are the same side. Their cognitive dissonance IS their reality. To tell them the truth is to earn their distrust and enmity.
    ‘No pay’
    ‘No bennies’
    The list goes on.

    Afghan children say things to the coalition forces like “The Taliban could cut our throats. What could we do? You’re just like them.”

    Villagers, when prodded by coalition forces who arrive in mountain villages 1 day in 200 and with all the air support one can provide for over-watch, prod the villagers to resist the Taliban yet promise no arms. The villagers respond with statements like ” the Taliban can get to us long before they get to you” Their folded arms tell the story. They want nothing to do with it.
    Does anyone have any ideas how to unravel this Gordian Knot?

  • Thomas Irwin says:

    “Afghan Special Forces Unit officials blamed the high number of casualties on a lack of air support and the failure of the Afghan military and police to provide reinforcements as the Taliban launched their attack”.
    An American unit would never be sent on a mission like this without adequate air and QRF backup coupled with rapid air evacuation and decent medical support. As long as we continue to send these highly trained Afghan units on missions without adequate logistical support, these casualty rates will continue and the willingness of these units to engage will be degraded. So a question might be, “How can we expect these units to perform effectively when they’re denied the same logistical support we Americans have employed and enjoyed for years. There’s no mention of U.S. participation, but I suspect had U.S. Navy Seals or Special Forces been along, this support would have been there. Corresponding cuts in our in-country tactical, medical, and supply support units go along with our reduced combat role, yet these are what is badly needed by the Afghan army for the long term. There doesn’t appear to have been any consideration of the effect this has on those Afghan forces expected to perform at the same level as U.S. forces.
    Even with an educated population that believed the war was worth it, which definitely does not appear to be the case in Afghanistan, it takes a lot longer to train a doctor, a pilot, mechanic, etc, capable of replacing an equivalent American than it does your average combat soldier. Even more difficult is finding enough educated Afghans who are willing and capable of being trained in these roles.
    One other point. According to LWJ, there are some 60,000 Taliban fighters in and out of Afghanistan. That’s 5 divisions. They cannot be defeated by ground combat alone. The day will come when they, like the NVA in Vietnam, will start launching coordinated mass attacks using heavy armor and artillery to capture even more of the country than they now control because the Afghan forces are too weak to stop or drive them out, let alone hold the territory. The only thing stopping them is U.S. presence. Lack of air support for a fledgling army is something we should have learned in Vietnam after Democrats in Congress shut down our air support of the VNAF while the NVA overran South Vietnam.
    Global Firepower site shows ANA air power to consist of 205 total aircraft of which 15 are attack, 158 transport, 142 various helicopter types plus 6 attack helicopters. It isn’t known how many of these are actually flyable or serviceable. Insofar as armor and heavy weapons go, GFP shows no operable heavy tanks, 9500 Armored Fighting Vehicles (both APCs and IFVs), 200 towed artillery and 50 Rocket Projectors. IAW, it shows a poorly armed ANA that would be hard pressed to stop a major regional assault without U.S. support.

  • Ranger Rick says:

    Clearly the Taliban forces in Farah are better lead and organized than Afghan national forces, going on 17 years like that now. Seems our time, money and blood have been wasted on “our” Afghan.

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