Taliban Offensive: Death Toll Rises
Latest Taliban Attacks at Maidan Shahr and Logar
An unconfirmed number of Afghan security forces personnel have been killed and wounded in a series of Taliban attacks across Afghanistan.
Taliban Car Bomb on the Logar-Kabul Highway
On Sunday, a Taliban car bomb exploded on the main Logar-Kabul highway as an Afghan security forces convoy passed by. At least 8, possibly 10, Afghan personnel were killed and another 10 wounded.
The convoy included the provincial governor and the head of the regional intelligence service. Clearly the target, no senior officials were injured in the Taliban attack.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that a “large number” of Afghan special forces had been killed or wounded.
Lying approx. 74km south of the capital Kabul, Logar is considered to be a strategic gateway to the city. The Taliban has an active presence in the region.
Taliban Attack Maidan Shahr Military Base
On Monday, the Taliban launched an attack against the Afghan government military base in Maidan Shahr, capital of the Warduk province.
A Taliban suicide bomber detonated a vehicle (a US-made Humvee) packed with explosives outside the base. Other Taliban fighters followed up with an armed assault – a much used Taliban tactic.
The Afghan government initially stated that 12 military personnel had been killed and some 30 wounded. Other reports suggest far higher casualties, ranging from 70 to 126 dead.
The New York Times reported that the Maidan Shahr base was a training facility for the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
Taliban Aggression Underpins Qatar Negotiations
The Taliban has been increasing its attacks over the winter, possibly in an effort to exert more influence during peace talks.
Afghanistan’s Taliban opened a new round of peace talks Monday in Qatar with the United States, the insurgent group said.
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan political reconciliation, is leading the U.S. delegation.
“Following American acceptance of the agenda of ending the invasion of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future, talks with American representatives took place today in Doha, the capital of Qatar,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. The session continued Tuesday.
According to data from the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Taliban controls or contests nearly half of Afghanistan.
The New York Times reported in December that US President Trump had ordered the military to withdraw almost 7,000 troops now deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. According to The Washington Post, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigned over disagreements with the president on troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. The White House has neither confirmed nor denied the reports.
The British Army are currently deployed to Afghanistan on Operation TORAL as part of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support.
Image: Maidan Shahr military base near Kabul, Afghanistan, after Monday’s Taliban attack (video screenshot).