Afghan special forces hit hard in deadly Taliban ambush

The Taliban killed at least 10 Afghan commandos and several other security personnel during an ambush in Farah province last night. Security in Farah has been slipping over the past two years as the Taliban has focused efforts in the western province.

Taliban fighters ambushed the special forces unit that was partnered with local security forces that prepared to launch a raid in the Bala Buluk district of Farah, provincial officials told TOLONews. The number of casualties suffered by the combined Afghan force varies in Afghan press reports. However, officials from the Afghan Special Forces Unit confirmed that ten of its commandos were killed. Eight policemen were also killed and at least three more were captured by the Taliban during the fighting.

Afghan Special Forces Unit officials blamed the high number of casualties on a lack of air support and the failure of the Afghan military and police to provide reinforcements as the Taliban launched their attack, ATN News reported.

Afghanistan’s special forces have been at the tip of the spear in the fight against the Taliban. The loss of the commandos, who are considered to be the most effective and motivated of all of Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces, is a painful blow. Four other commandos were killed in a Taliban attack in Farah earlier this week.

Taliban spokesman Zabihulah Mujahideed claimed credit for the attack on his official Twitter account.

“Enemy forces that arrived at Tapa Sadat area of Farah Rod #Farah come under attacks, 53 hireling commandos killed/wounded & sizable amount weapons seized, rest trying to flee & Mujahidin in pursuit,” he wrote. Mujahidid also posted three photographs of weapons purportedly seized from the Afghan commandos during the ambush.

Given the effectiveness of the operation against Afghanistan’s elite forces, it is possible that the Taliban had inside help to carry out the attack. The Taliban has been adept at infiltrating Afghan security forces.

Security situation in Farah deteriorates

Security in Farah provinces has steadily deteriorated over the past two years. Farah City was one of five provinces that were under direct Taliban threat by the end of 2016. The Taliban remained on the outskirts of the city during 2017 and have continually harassed security forces throughout the province.

By mid-January 2018, Afghan officials have warned that the Taliban was no longer on the outskirts and has entered the city. The province’s deputy governor, Mohammad Younus Rasuli, criticized the security forces, which he said are taking heavy casualties.

“Currently security forces have not made any move to target the insurgents and our defensive status is also incorrect. In the last week only, over 50 security force members have been killed,” Rasuli, according to TOLONews.

At the end of January, Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan, the governor of Farah, quit, “because of the worsening security situation in Farah.” He partially blamed this on “interference in my responsibilities from various individuals,” Reuters reported.

Late last month, the Taliban overran a Afghan military base in Bala Buluk and killed upwards of 25 soldiers and captured three more. Just before that attack, the Taliban killed 20 policemen in three separate assaults in the province.

The Taliban have been flaunting its military strength in Farah. In Oct. 2017, the Taliban released a video of its fighters massing for a parade and speech by senior officials in the province, without fear of being targeted by either Afghan or Coalition forces. [See LWJ report, Taliban fighters mass in western Afghan province.]

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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