Taliban attack Afghan government post near Iran border, killing 20 troops

Afghan forces are dying in record numbers with Afghan and US officials warning that the casualty rate is not sustainable. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 November 2018

Taliban attack Afghan government post near Iran border, killing 20 troops

  • At least 20 soldiers were known to have been killed, several wounded and the others were missing
  • Afghan forces are dying in record numbers with Afghan and US officials warning that the casualty rate is not sustainable

KABUL: Taliban militants attacked a border outpost in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 20 government soldiers in the latest assault likely to compound fears that the security forces are facing an unsustainable casualty toll.
Sparsely populated Farah, on the border with Iran, has seen months of heavy fighting, with hundreds police and soldiers killed. The Taliban threatened to seize the provincial capital in May.
In the latest violence in the province, the insurgents assaulted the border post manned by about 50 Afghan government soldiers before dawn, officials in the area said.
At least 20 soldiers were known to have been killed, several wounded and the others were missing, said a senior military officer who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to media.
“Hours after the attack, we lost contact with the base and we still do not know the whereabouts of the remaining soldiers,” the officer said.
The Taliban, fighting to oust foreign forces and overthrow the Western-backed Kabul government, claimed responsibility saying they had captured the base, killed 30 soldiers and seized weapons and ammunition.
Some officials in Farah have accused Iran, which the United States says is trying to extend its influence in western Afghanistan, of providing the insurgents with money and weapons. Iran denies the accusation.
The attack underlined the struggle Afghan security forces face in confronting the insurgents, who have steadily extended their control in the countryside, even though the government holds all provincial centers.
On Monday, the militants captured an important security post outside the central city of Ghazni, killing 13 members of government forces and underscoring their vulnerability even in areas where defenses have been bolstered.
More than 17 years after US-led forces toppled the Taliban regime, Afghan forces are dying in record numbers with Afghan and US officials warning that the casualty rate is not sustainable.
In September alone, more than 500 Afghan soldiers were killed and hundreds wounded, the Defense Ministry said.
Tentative steps toward peace talks between the Taliban and the United States have had no impact on the level of attacks.
The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met Taliban leaders in Qatar last month. The Taliban will also join multilateral peace talks hosted by Russia this week.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 32 min 58 sec ago

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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