Afghanistan: Taliban encircles government compound, kills dozens

Taliban fighters storm Afghan government compound in Badghis, kill at least 32 soldiers and policemen in 48 hours.

Afghanistan Badghis map

Afghan officials say a massive Taliban siege of a government compound and army base in western Badghis province, now in its second day, has killed at least 12 more troops.

Friday’s fatalities bring the overall casualty toll for the assault in the district of Bala Murghab to at least 32.

Many more have been wounded and the area is cut off.

Mohammad Nasir Nazari, a provincial council member, said that according to soldiers inside the base, roughly 2,000 Taliban fighters are involved in the attack.

He said there are about 600 Afghan troops and members of the security forces inside and they are running out of ammunition, water and food.

Abdul Waris Sherzad, a district chief, said the locals are disappointed that NATO forces and the Afghan government have not helped, an assertion the defence ministry disputes. 

Sherzad said in a statement on Thursday the Taliban had killed 36 members of the government forces and captured several security checkpoints in attacks that began on Wednesday night.

More than 30 Taliban fighters were also killed, according to Jamshed Shahabi, spokesman for Badghis’ provincial governor.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the group attacked from four directions, capturing five checkpoints.

Afghanistan’s defence ministry, in a series of tweets, said its forces chose to “tactically retreat” from the checkpoints to prevent civilian casualties.

The ministry said it called in multiple air attacks on Taliban positions and had airlifted reinforcements and supplies to Badghis.

On Friday the defence ministry said Afghan forces had forced the Taliban to retreat from some checkpoints and that all key areas remained under its control.

Recurring hotspot

The district of Bala Murghab has been a recurring hotspot of fighting in the past two months, and officials have previously warned that it could fall to the Taliban without reinforcements.

The armed group controls or contests nearly half of Afghanistan, the most since US-led forces removed it from power in 2001, according to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Fighting in Afghanistan has escalated before the usual spring season, as both sides seek to increase leverage in talks on a peace settlement.

Fighting between armed groups has also intensified. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Thursday that attacks on Taliban positions by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) on March 23 resulted in 21,000 people being displaced in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces.

The latest round of peace talks between US and Taliban officials wrapped up last month, with both sides citing progress.

But despite the talks, the Taliban stages near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, inflicting staggering casualties. The armed group refuses to talk directly with the government in Kabul, considering it a US puppet.

The Taliban says it is fighting to expel foreign troops, topple the Western-backed Afghan government and restore its version of Islamic law.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies