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Taliban inflict major loss of life on ANA in Kandahar

October 19, 2017

Summary: A pre-dawn suicide bomber-led attack wipes out an Afghan army unit, killing over 40.  Increasing Taliban confidence and ANA failings are the likely causes.

The Taliban conducted a coordinated and powerful attack on an Afghan military base in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province in the pre-dawn of Thursday 19 October.  Information is still coming in but the Afghan Ministry of Defence has reportedly stated that 43 Afghan soldiers were killed, nine wounded and six unaccounted for.  The attack, including one or two suicide bombings, armed gunmen and captured armoured Humvee cars.  A firefight lasted several hours.  The Afghan army unit was approximately 60 strong and it appears that only two men were unharmed.  Some Taliban fighters were killed, reports suggest nine or ten.

Six Afghan soldiers remain missing after the overnight attack [File: AP Photo]


The Afghan army is suffering many casualties and struggles with morale and capability.  In late April 2017, it suffered well in excess of 100 killed (some reports talk of closer to 200) in a single attack led by Taliban suicide bombers against an army base in Balkh province, northern Afghanistan.  That is still the highest loss of military life in one attack since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and looks to have been due largely to incompetence from the army and skilled planning by the Taliban.[1]

This is another major physical blow for the Afghan security forces, perhaps only surpassed by the Mazar-e Sharif attack, last April.  The Minister of Defence and several high level military commanders resigned as a result. Analysis is likely to focused on the increasing confidence and ability of the Taliban – including their ability to access modern armoured cars almost certainly donated by the US to the Afghan army – and the Afghan army’s weaknesses at protecting its static bases.

Tolo News, 18 Oct 2017: In September alone, 480 Afghan army soldiers and almost 300 police force members were killed.  In most of the attacks that killed these security force members, the Taliban has seized uniforms and military equipment including weapons and vehicles.

There is no obvious evidence that the Afghan army is crumbling: the army is likely to broadly remain in the field and in control of key cities and communication routes.  But the numbers of casualties each year are very high and with little sign they will slacken.  Earlier this month, President Ghani suggested that international forces coul dwithdraw entirely in four years.

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