Taliban kills 25 Afghan commandos

The Taliban killed 25 members of the Afghan National Army’s commandos during recent fighting in the northwestern province of Badghis. The commandos are the most effective Afghan military formation and are at the tip of the spear in the fight against the Taliban.

The governor of Badghis province told Radio Free Europe that the 25 commandos and 20 Taliban fighters were killed during a clash in the province on July 15.

The Taliban, in a statement released on Voice of Jihad, said the fighting took place in the district of Ab Kamari, and claimed that 39 Afghan security forces were killed and 16 more were captured. The Taliban also claimed it ambushed the Afghan forces in a “preplanned” attack.

Only two days prior, the Taliban launched an attack on a hotel Qala-i-Naw, the provincial capital of Badghis. Residents of the province recently protested the “increasing insecurity” in the province, including in the capital, and said that roads from Qala-i-Naw to the outlying districts have been severed by the Taliban.

Insecurity in Badghis has increased since Afghan forces were handed control of security in 2014. Of Badghis’ six provinces, three, including Ab Kamari, are contested, two are Taliban controlled, and the remaining one is under government control, according to an ongoing study by FDD’s Long War Journal.

The Taliban has had success against Afghan commandos

The commandos are instrumental in holding back the Taliban tide, but their numbers are limited (there are an estimated 20,000 soldiers serving as commandos), they are overused, and they have taken an inordinate amount of casualties. The Afghan military often assigns them to defend recently overrun district centers in remote areas of the country, a mission which they are not ideally suited to execute. These factors occasionally have disastrous consequences.

Over the past year and a half the Taliban has been able to deal several significant blows to Afghanistan’s special operations forces. In March 2018, just before the Taliban took control of the city of Farah for a brief period of Taliban, its fighters killed at least 10 Afghan commandos and several other security personnel during an ambush. As the Taliban launched its province-wide offensive in Ghazni in Aug. 2018, an entire commando company was overrun during the Taliban takeover of Ajristan. More than 100 commandos were killed, captured, wounded, or fled their positions while attempting to defend the district. Three months later, in Jaghuri in Ghani in Nov. 2018, 30 members of a 50 man commando company were killed and 10 more were wounded.

Regular Afghan Army units often fare far worse than the better trained commandos. The Taliban clearly has the initiative and Afghan forces are on the defensive in many areas in Afghanistan. Casualties are at an all time high, and the cumulative effect on morale of Afghan forces cannot easily be measured since elite forces and military and police bases are overrun with shocking regularity, at this point on a near daily basis.

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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