The Taliban killed 30 soldiers in an assault on Afghan security forces in the northwestern province of Badghis earlier today, government officials said. An Afghan official claimed the Taliban infiltrated and scouted bases during a ceasefire and used that information to launch its attack.
Afghan officials said that the Taliban attacked two security outposts and overran a military base in the contested district of Bala Murghab, according to Reuters.
“Large numbers of Taliban came from several directions,” the head of Badghis’ provincial council told the news agency. “After hours of heavy fighting 30 Afghan security forces were killed and the Taliban captured the base.”
Security in Badghis has deteriorated since US forces ended the surge and handed over control to Afghan forces in the summer of 2014. Four of Badghis’ six districts, including Bala Murghab, are contested, while one is Taliban controlled, and one is government controlled, according to an ongoing analysis of Afghanistan’s districts by FDD’s Long War Journal.
The assault on the base and security outposts may presage an attack on the Bala Murghab’s administrative center. The Taliban often masses its forces outside the district center and strikes security checkpoints and bases before attempting to raid the administrative buildings.
The provincial council chief claimed that the Taliban surveyed the base and planned the attack during the three day period where the Afghan government and the Taliban ceasefire overlapped at the end of the Eid holiday. Taliban fighters were allowed to enter government controlled areas, including the capital of Kabul, to celebrate Eid during the ceasefire. Some Afghan officials who have been critical of the ceasefire warned that the Taliban may use its access to the cities to plot new attacks.
Photographs of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters embracing each other flooded the web during the ceasefire, giving hope to many that the Taliban was willing to enter negotiations with the Afghan government. Those hopes were dashed when the Taliban rejected the Afghan government’s call to extend its three day ceasefire and immediately resumed attacks on Afghan forces.
Despite the Taliban’s resumption of attacks, President Arshaf Ghani extended the government’s unilateral ceasefire for 10 days, and offered the Taliban a year-long ceasefire if it was willing to negotiate.
That is a non-starter. The Taliban has refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which it says is un-Islamic and a “puppet” of the United States and the West. In the past, the Taliban’s top spokesman said the group “has not readily embraced this death and destruction for the sake of some silly ministerial posts or a share of the power.” The Taliban has refused to cut ties with and denounce al Qaeda, which remains its ally to this day.