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Taliban Kill at Least 15 at Afghan Army Outpost in Kandahar

The Taliban besieged an Afghan Army outpost early on Friday and during hours of fighting killed at least 15 soldiers and wounded five, officials said, adding to a string of recent attacks in the strategically vital province of Kandahar.

While Kandahar had remained relatively safe over the past few years, even as provinces around it felt the pressure of a Taliban resurgence, the insurgents seem to be focusing again on the province. Kandahar served as the Taliban founder's seat of power when the movement controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

Officials are reporting an uptick in Taliban attacks in the province since the launch of their new offensive last month, with as many as eight of the province's districts facing sporadic assaults.

The attack on Friday began around 1:30 a.m. in the district of Shah Wali Kot. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said 15 soldiers were killed and five were wounded at an outpost near Zangitan.

Gen. Abdul Raziq, the police chief of Kandahar, said that the fighting lasted for hours and that the Taliban, who had attacked in large numbers, also suffered heavy casualties.

"The situation is under control now," General Raziq said.

It was the second deadly attack this week on an army post in Shah Wali Kot. On Tuesday, an attack in the village of Achakzai there left at least 10 Afghan soldiers dead and nine wounded, according to Maj. Ahmad Sadiq, a spokesman for the 205th Army Corps in Kandahar.

Hajji Agha-Lalai Dastgiri, the deputy governor for Kandahar, said that the Taliban were again turning their attention to Kandahar after gaining ground in neighboring provinces in recent years.

"There is insecurity in the neighboring provinces – in Oruzgan, only the capital of the province is safe, in Zabul only the capital is safe, and in Helmand the Taliban are almost entirely controlling the northern part of the province," Mr. Dastgiri said. "The Taliban are going to manage sophisticated attacks on those districts of Kandahar that border those insecure provinces, where they have the upper hand and can easily arrange attacks."

A trend of heavy casualties among the Afghan security forces seems to be continuing this year, after record losses last year: more than 6,000 killed and more than 12,000 wounded in a largely defensive effort. The situation has alarmed the American-led NATO coalition, which has about 13,000 troops here to support and train the Afghan forces.

Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of the coalition forces in Afghanistan, 8,400 of which are American, has requested an additional few thousand troops to help the mission. Not even the American surge of forces starting in 2009, involving more than 100,000 troops, was able to end the insurgency. Now, analysts believe the proposed troop increase would, at best, help prevent the Taliban from gaining further initiative and send the message that negotiation would be the only way out of the long war here.

President Trump has yet to make a decision on increasing the number of troops, with his administration split on the military's recommendation. The matter was one of the topics of discussions as NATO leaders met in Brussels on Thursday, where other NATO partners are also expected to contribute additional troops.

"We reviewed our training mission in Afghanistan, and we agreed that we will continue to sustain our mission," said Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general. "I welcome that several allies came forward today with new troop contributions. And on the basis of our review, we will take further decisions in the coming weeks."

[Source: By Taimoor Shah and Mujib Mashalm, The New York Times, Kandahar, 26May17]

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War in Afghanistan & Iraq
small logoThis document has been published on 29May17 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.