Two Taliban offensives in recent days have exposed the failures of the Afghan government to counter an ongoing and bloody insurgency, four years after Nato ground troops ended combat operations, and have handed the militant group a strong position in ongoing peace talks.
Taliban fighters overran an army base in the northern Afghan province of Faryab, officials said on Tuesday, killing at least 17 soldiers. Dozens are also feared captured in a significant blow to security forces already struggling to push insurgents from the eastern city of Ghazni.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Taliban and regional expert, said the militants had no desire to hold the strategically important city of Ghazni, less than 150 kilometres from Kabul, and simply wanted to show it was possible.
“The strategy is to launch big attacks, to show their power, hold the city or town for some days, get their prisoners released, capture some weapons, get some money, create fear – and then leave,” he said.
Nato has dismissed the Taliban assault as an “eye-catching, but inconsequential headline”, yet the demoralised Afghan security forces have struggled to overpower the insurgents despite backing from United States air power.
But with the mounting civilians and military casualties, the Ghazni siege has proved arduous for the Afghan forces who are already dealing with a steadily increasing war on numerous fronts after Nato combat troops pulled out of the country in 2014.
Militants gained control of the base in Faryab – known as Camp Chinaya – after days of heavy fighting, according to the army spokesman for northern Afghanistan, Mohammad Hanif Rezaee.
Tahir Rehmani, head of Faryab’s provincial council, said the military base fell after the soldiers begged for reinforcements and air support from Kabul but were ultimately ignored.
He said about 100 soldiers were on the base when it was attacked on Sunday.
“It is a tragedy that the base fell to the enemy. Some soldiers were killed, some captured and some fled to nearby hills,” Mr Rezaee said.
At least 17 were killed in the attack, according to defence ministry spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed, while a local MP said Taliban fighters captured another 40 in the base.
“Preparations are under way to launch an operation to recapture the base,” said the ministry’s spokesman.
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