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Taliban attacks leave dozens dead in Afghanistan

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers march during a military exercise on Tuesday at the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC) on the outskirts of Kabul. (AFP)
KABUL: Taliban guerrillas disguised in police uniforms killed over 50 security personnel in two separate raids on Tuesday in Afghanistan, making it one of the bloodiest days for the US-backed government in months.
The first attack occurred shortly before dawn in the Andar district of Ghazni province where a Taliban suicide bomber blew up a vehicle, while several other Taliban fighters stormed government buildings and clashed with security forces, killing 21 of them, local media quoted officials as saying.
In the second strike, Taliban insurgents targeted a police training center in Gardez, the provincial capital of Paktia, near the border with Pakistan. At least 33 people were killed, including Paktia’s police chief Gen. Toryalai Abadyani, and around 200 wounded, officials said.
“While looking forward to the future, the government ... honors the value of peace and human rights, but the terrorists (are set on continuing) war,” President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.
“We will stand against these criminals and defend our country inch by inch. We will not allow it to become a safe haven for the terrorists and their supporters,” he continued.
The Gardez attack reportedly began when two car bombs exploded outside the compound, which also serves as the provincial headquarters for the Afghan army and national police.
Minutes later, a group of assailants entered the compound, sparking a gunbattle that lasted for several hours and resulted in casualties among both security forces and civilians.
Several buildings were razed in an explosion, with thick smoke rising from the area, video footage showed.
“Unfortunately, the losses are high as it was the start of the day, there were lots of police and civilians,” Gul Pacha Majidi, a lawmaker from Paktia, told Arab News by phone.
The Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the strike, have attacked the compound twice before using similar tactics.
Tuesday’s casualties were the highest in a single day for security forces since April, when Taliban assailants stormed the key army base in northern Balkh province, killing nearly 140 soldiers.
The militants have expanded and accelerated their attacks in recent months, capturing more ground from US-backed Afghan forces. The expansion of the attacks, coinciding with spread of activities by sympathizers of Daesh, has prompted the US to send several thousand extra troops as part of President Donald Trump’s strategy to combat the militants.
According to experts, despite the allocation of billions of dollars from the US and its Western allies since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, Afghan security forces still lack proper training and resources. They say rivalry among central government leaders has affected the rank and file of the security forces who routinely suffer losses on the battlefield.
Gen. John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction, said in a report last month that US partnerships with independent militias — intended to advance US counterterrorism objectives — had ultimately undermined the creation and role of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP).

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