Taliban storms police bases in western Afghanistan

The Taliban killed at least 41 policemen and soldiers after overrunning two police outposts in the western province of Farah on May 10. Security in Farah province has steadily degraded after NATO turned over control of security to Afghan forces in 2014.

At least 32 policemen and 9 Afghan soldiers were killed during Taliban assaults on separate police outposts in the district of Bala Buluk in Farah, officials told ATN News.

Surprisingly, the losses reported by Afghan officials were higher than claimed by the Taliban, which often inflates casualties inflicted on Afghan security personnel. In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official propaganda outlet, it claimed it killed 27 Afghan security personnel after overrunning “a large scale military base” in the province. The Taliban also claimed it destroyed or captured a large number of armored vehicles as well as both weapons and ammunition.

Security in Farah, like many other provinces, has progressively worsened since NATO put Afghan security forces in charge and pulled out most of its forces from the country in 2014. The Taliban has capitalized on weak and understaffed Afghan military and police forces, as well as corrupt local governments, and asserted itself in the previously peaceful western provinces.

Of Farah’s 11 districts, the Taliban currently control three and contest six more, according to an ongoing assessment by FDD’s Long War Journal of the status of Afghanistan’s districts.

Farah City, the provincial capital, 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.

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.

The Taliban has had success against Afghan security forces in Farah and specifically in Bala Buluk. In late Feb., the Taliban overran another 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.

In mid-March, the Taliban killed at least 10 Afghan commandos and eight policemen during an ambush in Farah province. Three other security personnel were captured.

The Taliban has 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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