Taliban attacks on Afghan forces undeterred by mounting US pressure

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.

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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12 Comments

  • chris north says:

    Let me get this straight–you claim to work for the defense of democracies and you spread the half-lies of the Taliban propaganda with no balance for what GIRoA is doing in defense of democracy?

    • Drew says:

      Well, Chris North, what is GIRoA doing in the defense of democracy? I fail to see it. The top two corrupt country on Earth can only be so democratic…

      Furthermore, they’re getting their asses handed to them by the likes of TB, ISIL, Haqqani, etc.. If the coalition left tomorrow, GIRoA would face the same result that the Government of South Vietnam faced…

  • Dennis says:

    Thank you Chris north, I thought I was the only one to notice the same thing.

  • Roger Smith says:

    The idea of small outposts unable to successfully defend themselves has been a failure for many years.
    In Vietnam we moved moved moved. Every day was hunting day, not a day of waiting.

  • Jeff says:

    Mr. Roggio, with all due respect, you’ve become the most one-sided “reporter” of facts on Afghanistan in the Washington blob. The only thing absent in this grossly one-sided diatribe is the word “failure,” which normally permeates your writing.

    Find some balance, and stop propagandizing against the war. We get that you don’t like it. But this kind of piece hurts your credibility, and it makes the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies look like a shill for the Muslim fanatics.

    • Bill Roggio says:

      Normally, I would recommend individuals who post comments like yours to read Resolute Support’s press releases instead of LWJ if you want to get the Good News From Afghanistan Vibe. Except Resolute Support doesn’t issue press releases on its operations any longer. For instance, when I tried to get information on the killing of Mullah Manan, I was stiff armed. I was trying to report on that strike and get the US military’s perspective, but RS was disinterested. In fact, RS was hostile. This isn’t a one time occurrence, it happens routinely. The fact that RS doesn’t what you to know what is happening in Afghanistan, or doesn’t care to inform you, should speak volumes.

      I do apologize my reporting isn’t to your liking. Facts can be a very uncomfortable thing. I don’t take any pleasure in reporting on failure. In fact, it is quite depressing and I wish I didn’t have to do it. Yet here we are. I have been trying to warn anyone who will listen that things are not going well and if we don’t turn this around, we will lose.

      Some people just don’t see to like the fact that the Taliban’s reports on its operations are more accurate than the Afghan or US military’s. I don’t like it either. Sadly, I can detail numerous instance where the Taliban correctly reported its operations (such as overrunning Ghazni, Kunduz and Farah cities, and numerous district centers, or helicopter shoot downs) while the Afghan military and Resolute Support flat out lied to us. I find this disgusting and repulsive. Yet again, here we are. Would you prefer I bury this and tell you the ANSDF is kicking ass and taking names? What purpose would that serve?

      I do take issue to the comment that I am “propagandizing against the war.” If you have read what I have written over the years, you’d know I have advocated for the US to take a stronger stand against the Taliban and Pakistan, and that negotiations are a farce that only strengthens the Taliban. US failure in Afghanistan will have repercussions that many do not understand. It will strengthen jihadists and embolden Pakistan to continue to export jihad. It will be a historic victory for the group that attacked the US on 9/11. I’ve testified to Congress on both Pakistan and Afghanistan and have laid out these issues for the record.

      //www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/07/pakistan-friend-or-foe-in-the-fight-against-terrorism.php

      //www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/04/afghanistans-terrorist-resurgence-al-qaeda-isis-and-beyond.php

      • Joke says:

        Bill,

        ANSDF is kicking ass and taking names. Taliban are running to the mountains to hide.

      • KW64 says:

        Thanks for what you do Mr. Roggio. Accurate information is an asset not an albatross in a democracy where the public must play its part in national policy. We cannot expect the situation to improve from mere complaisance.

        • Bill Roggio says:

          Thank you KW64. You are a long time reader, and more than anyone know what LWJ is all about. Best as always.

    • Jeff says:

      I withdraw the comment.

  • Jim Gant says:

    Bill,

    Thank you for keeping the public informed about what is going on in Afghanistan. You guys at LWJ do a great job.

    Jim Gant

  • Kris Greenwood says:

    Good observation Chris. What is the Afghan or American government doing to get Pakistan on board with any sort of peace or cooperation plan ? (Did I just happen to miss it ?) Not that Pakistan is solely responsible but they seem to be a big player since it appears none or few of the attackers are Shiite. (Iran) In fact, it appears the Shiite’s are the primary target next to the government soldiers and police.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis