The Taliban has not flinched in the wake of increased targeting of its leaders by the US military as part of an effort to force the group to the negotiating table. In fact, the Taliban has remained on the offensive throughout Afghanistan. In Kabul, a suicide bomber killed 12 people, while dozens of Afghan security personnel were killed in Taliban attacks on outposts in the provinces of Badghis, Kandahar, Kunduz and Herat.
The attacks have also provided a window into the accuracy of the Taliban’s reporting of its military operations.
On Voice of Jihad – the Taliban’s official propaganda website that publishes in five languages (Dari, Pashtu, Urdu, Arabic, and English) – the top five news items detail the Taliban’s versions of its attacks in Badghis, Kabul, Kandahar, Kunduz, and Herat. All five attacks can be verified by independent press reporting. And the Taliban’s version of events is not far from what has been reported in the press.
The Kabul suicide bombing, which is the most prominent news story from Afghanistan today, killed four soldiers and eight civilians, according to Afghan press reports. Another nine people, including six security personnel and three civilians, were wounded according to TOLONews. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack and said it was carried out by “Mohammad Masoom, a Mujahid of the martyr unit of the Islamic Emirate.” There were 23 “casualties,” including “over 23 combined U.S. invaders and their puppets,” according to the Taliban. However, no US personnel were reported killed or wounded in the press reports.
The next largest attack, based on press reports, took place in Kunduz in the Afghan north. Ten Afghan policemen were killed and 12 more were wounded as the Taliban attacked a serious of security outposts, The New York Times noted. Afghan troops called for reinforcements but none came. The Taliban claimed it overran an outpost and killed 12 soldiers and wounded 15 more.
In Kandahar, RFE/RL reported that eight Afghan policemen were killed after the Taliban overran an outpost. The Taliban’s claim of casualties was much higher; it said that 25 Afghan policemen were killed. In Herat, according to the The New York Times, Afghan officials said that six policemen were killed and 12 more were wounded in Taliban attacks in Herat. The Taliban reported that nine security personnel were killed in the province.
Badghis was the only province where the press and Taliban reports diverged wildly. Afghan officials said that a handful of security personnel were killed, while the Taliban claimed to kill 25 members of the Afghan security forces.
The Taliban also reported that it launched multiple attacks in Helmand and Farah, however these incidents have not been confirmed in press accounts.
Today’s attacks by the Taliban highlight the group’s ability to conduct operations in all quadrants of the country. The Taliban effectively struck Afghan forces in the center (Kabul), the North (Kunduz), the West (Herat and Badghis) and the South (Kandahar, and presumably Helmand and Farah). US officials have denied that the Taliban has had the initiative and claimed it is only fighting to gain the upper hand in negotiations, but the consistency and ferocity of the Taliban’s attacks belie these points. The Taliban has taken the fight to the Afghan security forces in all areas of the country and has inflicted an average of 50 security forces casualties per day.
The attacks also emphasize the value of the Taliban’s information war in understanding the conflict. Voice of Jihad and other Taliban media products are often dismissed out of hand as mere propaganda, nothing worth paying attention to, particularly in some US military and intelligence circles. While the Taliban does often inflates casualties incurred during its operations and downplays its own, the events themselves are accurate and rarely manufactured. For instance, the Taliban has been far more accurate when reporting on events such as overrunning districts than the Afghan government or Resolute Support. As today’s events prove, much of the Taliban’s reporting was verified in local and international press accounts, and in three of the five events, the Taliban’s reporting was a near match to the press accounts.
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