26 Afghan sol­diers killed in Tal­iban at­tack in Kan­da­har

Muscat Daily - - BREAK -

Kan­da­har, Afghanistan - At least 26 Afghan sol­diers have been killed in a Tal­iban at­tack on a mil­i­tary base in south­ern Kan­da­har prov­ince, the De­fence Min­istry said on Wed­nes­day, the lat­est blow to the coun­try’s strug­gling se­cu­rity forces.

The Afghan air force said it car­ried out strikes back­ing up sol­diers on the ground dur­ing the hours-long at­tack on the base, which be­gan late on Tues­day and ended in the early hours of Wed­nes­day.

At least 13 sol­diers were also wounded in the at­tack, MOD spokesman Gen­eral Dawlat Waziri said. The Afghan forces ‘bravely re­sisted’, he added, killing more than 80 in­sur­gents.

The camp was lo­cated in the re­mote Karzali area of Khakrez district, near the bor­der with restive Hel­mand, where the Tal­iban hold vast swathes of ter­ri­tory.

“We con­ducted mul­ti­ple airstrikes killing dozens of them. Our he­li­copters trans­ported wounded sol­diers to hos­pi­tals in Kan­da­har,” said Gen­eral Raziq Shirzai, the pro­vin­cial air force com­man­der.

One se­nior army source said up to 12 sol­diers are still miss­ing fol­low­ing the as­sault, which he de­scribed as a ‘very heavy at­tack’. The in­sur­gents stole guns and ve­hi­cles as they re­treated, he said.

Res­i­dents de­scribed hear­ing the airstrikes, and said the at­tack was launched by a 30-strong con­voy car­ry­ing ‘ hun­dreds’ of Tal­iban who as­saulted the base from mul­ti­ple di­rec­tions.

The in­sur­gents claimed the at­tack via their Twit­ter ac­count.

The resur­gent Tal­iban have been ramp­ing up their cam­paign against be­lea­guered gov­ern­ment forces, un­der­scor­ing ris­ing in­se­cu­rity in the war-torn coun­try dur­ing the sum­mer fight­ing sea­son when the warmer weather tends to spur an in­crease in mil­i­tant at­tacks.

Afghan se­cu­rity forces - 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 per cent in 2016, with 6,800 sol­diers and po­lice killed, ac­cord­ing to US watch­dog SIGAR.

The in­sur­gents have car­ried out more com­plex at­tacks against se­cu­rity forces in 2017, with SIGAR de­scrib­ing troop ca­su­al­ties in the early part of the year as ‘shock­ingly high’.

In April at least 135 sol­diers are be­lieved to have been killed on a base out­side the north­ern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, one of the dead­li­est ever Tal­iban at­tacks on a mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion. Some sources put the toll as high as 200.

The at­tack was launched by a 30-strong con­voy car­ry­ing ‘hun­dreds’ of Tal­iban who as­saulted the base from mul­ti­ple di­rec­tions Kan­da­har res­i­dents

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