Afghanistan: Taliban take fight direct to police and army

 19 Oct 2017 - 14:08

Afghanistan: Taliban take fight direct to police and army
Afghan National Army (ANA) commandos arrest men pretending to be Taliban fighters during a military exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) on the outskirts of Kabul on October 17, 2017. AFP / SHAH MARAI


Kabul: Since they launched their spring offensive in late April, the Taliban have been mounting lethal direct assaults on Afghan army and police positions that have taken a heavy toll.

After 16 years of warfare the resurgent militants show no signs of fatigue, ramping up their campaign against beleaguered government forces and underscoring rising insecurity in the war-torn country.

Afghan police and troops -- beset by a high death toll, desertions and non-existent "ghost soldiers" on the payroll -- have been struggling to beat back the insurgents since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.

Casualties among Afghan security forces soared by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to US watchdog SIGAR.

Official figures for this year's fighting season have yet to be released. But SIGAR noted that the attrition rate among government forces during the early stages of 2017, usually a quiet time for fighting because of the winter weather, were "shockingly high".

Below is a timeline of notable militant attacks on Afghan police and military this year. 

March 8 
Gunmen disguised as doctors storm Afghanistan's largest military hospital in a six-hour attack officially claimed by IS, though eyewitness accounts suggested they were Taliban militants. 

The official death toll is 50 but security sources and survivors say it exceeded 100 in a savage assault which say patients stabbed in their beds, grenades thrown into crowded wards, and people shot at point-blank range.

April 21
The Taliban kick off their spring offensive with one of their most bloody ambushes to date. At least 144 people are killed after militants in soldiers' uniforms and armed with suicide vests storm an army base in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Some sources put the death toll as high as 200. 

Late May
Taliban fighters launch a string of ambushes throughout the latter half of May across southern Kandahar province killing around 60 Western-backed troops. In one attack on May 22, 30 soldiers are killed. Two days later 13 more die, followed by another 15 in a third attack.

In southern Zabul province a separate attack leaves 20 police officers dead. Local officials make desperate calls to Afghan television stations to seek attention as they were unable to get hold of senior authorities for help, highlighting the disarray in security ranks.

3 July
Taliban insurgents ambush and kill 13 pro-government fighters in northern Balkh province. The militia fighters were on their way to help strained security forces in ongoing operations against the insurgency. 

26 July
An hours-long ambush on an airbase in Kandahar leaves 26 soldiers dead. 

Residents describe seeing a 30-strong convoy of vehicles carrying "hundreds" of Taliban fighters attack the base.

Besieged Afghans call in airstrikes, leaving some 80 insurgents dead. But other Taliban fighters escape, making off with stolen guns and vehicles as they retreat. 

28 August
13 people, mainly soldiers, die when a military convoy is rammed by a Taliban suicide bomber in Helmand.

A particularly bloody month for Afghan police and soldiers, with a series of complex and effective ambushes targeting the government's security apparatus. 

Several of the assaults use an explosive-packed Humvee to blast a path inside military bases and police headquarters, with gunmen following.

Two ambushes on Octobver 17, one on a police headquarters in Ghazni province and one in the city of Gardez, kill 80 people, mainly police, in a single day. 

The attack on Gardez was particularly effective, killing at least 60 people including Paktia police chief Toryalai Abdyani.

Two days later an army base in Maiwand, Khandahar province, is stormed with at least 43 Afghan soldiers killed. Just two soldiers are known to have survived unscathed. 

The same day militants re-attack the police headquarters in Ghazni, killing two more officers.