Afghan troops killed and captured in Taliban attacks

Attack in Faryab province leaves 22 dead, after a week of heavy fighting forced dozens of Afghan forces to flee.

Faryab, Afghanistan

An overnight Taliban attack on checkpoints in northern Afghanistan killed 22 troops after some 100 Afghan forces fled heavy fighting in the country’s west in recent days and tried to cross into neighbouring Turkmenistan, officials said on Sunday.

The Taliban launched the assault late on Saturday against checkpoints manned by police and pro-government forces in Qaisar district, setting off a fierce gun battle that lasted into Sunday morning said Mohammad Tahir Rahmani, the head of the provincial council in the northern Faryab province.

The army sent in reinforcements, who were among those killed. Rahmani said another 20 Afghan forces were wounded in the attack.


“The Taliban have gained control of more areas in the district” after stepping up attacks in recent weeks, Rahmani said, adding that troop reinforcements have arrived from the capital, Kabul. 

Provincial police spokesman Karim Yuresh confirmed that a large number of Taliban launched attacks in Faryab, but he could not immediately provide more details.

The Taliban spokesman claimed in a tweet that Taliban fighters overran a government base and checkpoint in Qaisar. The Taliban claim 21 soldiers and militiamen, known locally as arbaki were killed. The Taliban said their bodies were left on the battlefield.

Four soldiers were captured alive, the tweet said, the rest escaped. The Taliban say they also captured a tank and many heavy and light weapons in the assault.

Weeklong battle 

About 60 kilometres further west, in Baghdis province, around 100 Afghan border police fled their posts and tried to cross the border into Turkmenistan during a weeklong battle with the Taliban, officials said on Sunday.

Mohammad Naser Nazari, a provincial council member in Badghis, said the soldiers weren’t allowed to cross into Turkmenistan and their fate remains unknown.

The provincial council chairman, Abdul Aziz Bik said on Sunday that about 50 Afghan border police surrendered to the Taliban, while the remaining 50 continued fighting in the district of Bala Murghab. 

Bala Murghab is the province’s most populous district.

“These soldiers have been fighting against the Taliban for years and if they give up, they will be killed by Taliban,” Bik said.

The Taliban have posted pictures of captured soldiers on social media early Sunday, that show at least 27 people that appear to be in Taliban custody. The tweet said they captured them within the previous 48 hours. 

The Taliban claim they captured 72 soldiers and police and are continuing their advance. The group often inflates casualty figures and exaggerates its successes.  

The battles mark the latest setbacks for the country’s battered security forces, who come under daily attack and have suffered staggering casualties in recent years.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said in January that more than 45,000 Afghan security forces have been killed since 2014. 

The attacks have continued even as the Taliban have been holding direct negotiations with the United States aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war.

Conflicting casualty numbers

Jamshid Shahabi, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said 16 soldiers have been killed and 20 wounded during the ongoing battle in the Bala Murghab district, in which the military carried out air raids and dispatched reinforcements.

He said a number of soldiers tried to flee, without providing an exact figure. Shahabi said more than 40 fighters were killed. 

He said the provincial police chief and army commander are in the district and instructing the forces to root out fighters and rescue soldiers.

Officials said the fighting had largely subsided by Sunday, with sporadic clashes breaking out in remote areas.

Nazari provided a higher toll, saying 50 soldiers were killed and around 100 others were missing. He said hundreds of local residents have gathered in front of the Badghis governor’s office to express their concerns about security in the province.

He said Bala Murghab is almost completely controlled by the Taliban, with Afghan forces confined to the district headquarters.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies