Afghan forces suffer heavy casualties in Kunduz

The Afghan military “suffered heavy casualties” during a Taliban assault in a contested district in the northern province of Kunduz overnight. The attack was reportedly executed by the Taliban’s Red Unit, the group’s shock troops who are better trained than the average fighter.

The Taliban launched its attack on a military base and security checkposts in the district of Dasht-i-Archi late last night, the group stated on its official website, Voice of Jihad.

“[A] military base and 15 enemy check posts have been overrun, killing 72 puppets and leaving several others seriously wounded as well destroying 4 tanks and 4 ranger pickups,” the Taliban claimed.

Afghan officials confirmed the fighting in Dasht-i-Archi and noted that “heavy clashes are still underway,” Khaama Press reported. At least 30 soldiers were reportedly killed and 17 more wounded. An unnamed Afghan official told Khaama Press that 60 soldiers were killed or wounded.

Kunduz province has been a major focus of Taliban operations for the past four years. The Taliban overran Kunduz City and held it for two weeks in late 2015, and took over half of the city one year later in 2016. The Taliban was able to achieve this by dominating the districts outside of the city. Currently, the Taliban controls one district and contests the other six, according to an ongoing study by FDD’s Long War Journal.

Red Unit in Kunduz

An Afghan official told Khaama Press that the attack in Dasht-i-Archi was carried out by the Red Unit, the Taliban’s version of special forces that operates throughout Afghanistan and is often at the tip of the spear of assaults on district centers, military bases and outposts. The Red Unit operates more like shock troops rather than traditional Western special forces.

Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of a Taliban “Special Forces Unit,” also called the Red Group, Danger Group, and Blood Unit, in the summer of 2016. An Afghan Army special forces commander said the group uses “advanced weaponry, including night vision scopes, 82mm rockets, heavy machine guns and US-made assault rifles.”

Foreign fighters are known to operate within the ranks of the Red Unit. On Feb. 27, the Afghan military captured Abdul Wadood, a German national who advised Mullah Nasir, the commander of the Red Unit.

The Taliban has touted the existence of “special forces,” and has promoted its training camps as well as units in the field.

While the Taliban’s Red Unit certainly isn’t trained to the same standards and proficiency as US special operations forces, it has proven to be effective on the battlefield against its Afghan adversaries.

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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