Taliban ‘Red Units’ kill Afghan police officers
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The newest additions to the Afghan battlefield are fighters sporting “Star Wars”like headgear containing Russianbuilt night goggles, U.S.-made M-4 automatic rifles with laser sights, 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.
Their laser sights 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 36hour 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 Kandahar’s provincial governor. “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 at 70 officers.