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Using Night-Vision Goggles, Taliban Stage Lethal Attack

Taliban insurgents overran three checkpoints in nighttime raids on Tuesday in the western Afghan province of Farah, killing about 20 police officers before melting back into nearby villages, according to Afghan officials.

The province has been teetering from a wave of attacks by Taliban fighters using night-vision goggles, a technology that once gave the United States an edge in the war. Equipped with the devices, the Taliban quickly overwhelmed the checkpoints, said Dadullah Qani, a provincial council member in Farah, in a telephone interview.

Afghan officials have said that the night-vision goggles the Taliban have been using with such effect typically bear Russian markings, though their origin is unclear. Politicians in Kabul, the capital, have accused Russia of arming the Taliban.

The authorities in Moscow deny this. They say contacts established over the past several years with Taliban leaders are for discussions on countering a rival Islamist insurgent threat in Afghanistan, from the Islamic State, and on encouraging peace talks with the government.

Political analysts in Moscow say that the Russian government has lost confidence in the United States' strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan and that it is hedging its bets by reaching out to various factions in the country, including the Taliban.

Russia is not the only possible source of the goggles. Afghan officials say that the Taliban, flush with cash from the opium trade, may have obtained Russian night-vision gear on the black market in Pakistan, and such devices are also available in civilian hunting stores and online in some former Soviet countries. The Taliban have also put to use captured American military equipment such as armored Humvee trucks.

Tuesday's nighttime attack hit isolated sites that could not quickly be reinforced, local officials said. "When the Afghan forces conduct operations in one place, the Taliban target another place," said Mr. Qani, the provincial council member.

The number of casualties on the government side was in dispute. Mr. Qani said 22 had died in the attack, a provincial governor put the figure at eight and a Taliban spokesman gave a figure of 26.

Regardless of the number, Mohammad Hashim Danish, a political analyst living in the city of Farah, the provincial capital, said residents were frightened and felt that the insurgents could strike at will. The Taliban, he said, are "at the front door of Farah city."

He said that attackers sometimes warned residents to stay clear of checkpoints that will be targets, but that the Afghan intelligence agencies have such poor cooperation from locals that the authorities are not being tipped off.

[Source: By Andrew E. Kramer, The New York Times, Kabul, 20Feb18]

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small logoThis document has been published on 26Feb18 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.