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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Taliban spring offensive taking heavy toll on Afghan security forces

The Afghan Taliban's Spring Offensive is taking its toll on Afghan security forces in many different areas as the Pentagon is considering a plan that would see up to 5,000 US troops sent to Afghanistan to help the Afghan forces.

In southern Afghanistan at least 20 police were killed in Taliban ambushes. Afghan security forces are trying to dislodge the Taliban from several districts. In Zabul province fighting is ongoing according to the provincial governor Bismullah Afghanmal who said police were ambushed in Chino and Ghulam Rabat. He said: "The report we have right now indicates that 20 policemen are martyred and 10 others are wounded. The number may increase." Dozens of Taliban were also said to have been killed or wounded. Reinforcements arriving in the area also came under attack. He said there was also fighting in the Dai Chopan district but the extent of casualties was not yet known.
The neighbouring Ghazni province also saw fighting as the Taliban launched a three-pronged attack on the provincial capital. They drove a Humvee packed with explosives into the entrance of a district governor's compound. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for an attack on a bank in Paktia province that left three attackers and three others dead. The Taliban offensive began in April.
In other attacks, at least 10 Afghan soldiers were killed at army base, Camp Achakzai in Shawali Kowt just a day after attacks in the neighbouring province of Zabul. As well as ten being killed there were nine wounded. Dawlat Waziri, spokesperson for the Defence Ministry claimed that at least 12 attackers had been killed in the fighting. Last month a deadly attack in the northern city of Balkh killed 135 soldiers. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned last month of another tough year for security forces in Afghanistan.
Trump is considering a plan that would add three to five thousand additional troops to Afghanistan to help sway the balance that now appears to favor the Taliban. However, there is division within the administration with some feeling that the move will just keep the US involved in a costly war without gaining victory. Trump actually campaigned on avoiding such involvement but his actions since have been to increase US military involvement in a number of areas. One option being considered attempts to have the US do more without increasing troop levels. A recent article notes: "While the Pentagon is said to be “broadly supportive” of further escalation, they appear reluctant to address the question of whether the war is winnable at all, with growing concern among civilian officials that the soaring corruption and mounting losses in Afghanistan make this deployment just another waste." After a 16-year struggle a peace agreement still seems far in the future.
Some Afghans worry that sending more troops will simply make the war last longer. One resident said that sending more troops would be like putting wood on the fire. He said that increasing the number of US troops could provoke Pakistan, Iran, and Russia who would increase support for the Taliban. This would end up with more Afghans fighting each other.


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