Well-equipped Tal­iban fighters are at­tack­ing Afghan se­cu­rity forces

Star Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By TAIMOOR SHAH and ROD NORDLAND • New York Times

Hun­dreds of miles from the deadly at­tacks in Kan­da­har and Farah prov­inces, Afghan chil­dren peace­fully rode through Nadir Khan Hill park in the cap­i­tal, Kabul. KAN­DA­HAR, AFGHANISTAN – The new­est ad­di­tions to the Afghan bat­tle­field are fighters sport­ing Star Wars-like head­gear con­tain­ing Rus­sian-built night gog­gles, U.S.-made M-4 au­to­matic ri­fles with laser point­ers and bulky telescopic sights made in Iran or Pak­istan.

They wear baggy shal­war kameez cloth­ing and tur­bans — and fight for the Tal­iban.

Mem­bers of an elite out­fit called the Red Unit, they may even ride into bat­tle aboard a Ford Ranger po­lice pickup truck or an ar­mored army Humvee.

The red dots from their laser point­ers shine on po­lice of­fi­cers and sol­diers from the Afghan gov­ern­ment, which has ben­e­fited from bil­lions of dol­lars in Western aid to the Afghan se­cu­rity forces.

In five night­time at­tacks in a 36-hour pe­riod Mon­day and Tues­day, fighters who ap­peared to be from such Tal­iban units killed scores of Afghan se­cu­rity per­son­nel, mostly po­lice of­fi­cers, in two prov­inces in south­ern and western Afghanistan.

Afghan au­thor­i­ties said that the in­sur­gents in these and sim­i­lar re­cent at­tacks are prov­ing to be bet­ter equipped than gov­ern­ment forces, par­tic­u­larly those in po­lice units, which have suf­fered most of the ca­su­al­ties.

The Red Unit has car­ried out many of these at­tacks, Afghan of­fi­cials said, of­ten us­ing stolen mil­i­tary or po­lice ve­hi­cles as Tro­jan horses to get close to bases they plan to at­tack.

“The Tal­iban now are us­ing dif­fer­ent tac­tics,” said Qu­drat­ul­lah Khush­bakht, spokesman for the gov­er­nor of Kan­da­har Prov­ince. “They have their own mo­bile special forces unit which is equipped with lasers and night vi­sion gear, and they are at­tack­ing check posts and bases and then leav­ing the area as quickly as pos­si­ble to avoid airstrikes.”

That was the case in at­tacks into the early hours of Tues­day in two dis­tricts in Kan­da­har Prov­ince, in which Khush­bakht said 23 po­lice of­fi­cers were killed and 16 in­jured in rolling at­tacks on 15 po­lice posts. Other of­fi­cials, how­ever, put the death toll in those in­ci­dents in the Zahre and Mai­wand dis­tricts at 70 of­fi­cers.

Khush­bakht said that at­tacks be­gan when in­sur­gents drove a stolen po­lice Ford Ranger pickup truck into a po­lice post and det­o­nated explosives, then moved on to at­tack nearby bases.

Sim­i­lar tac­tics were de­scribed in a Tal­iban at­tack early Mon­day morn­ing in the western prov­ince of Farah, in which eight po­lice of­fi­cers were killed. The Tal­iban fighters used night vi­sion gog­gles, of­fi­cials said.

Two Tal­iban units at­tacked other tar­gets in Farah on Mon­day night and Tues­day morn­ing, killing three po­lice of­fi­cers at one post and 15 Afghan Na­tional Army sol­diers at an­other, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

In the Kan­da­har at­tacks, none of the po­lice posts was cap­tured and the po­lice in­flicted heavy ca­su­al­ties on the Tal­iban, said Matiul­lah Hel­lal, a spokesman for po­lice in Kan­da­har Prov­ince.

A Tal­iban spokesman, Zabi­ul­lah Mu­jahid, said the in­sur­gents had lost only one fighter.

RAHMAT GUL • As­so­ci­ated Press

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