Afghan Forces Battle Taliban 30 Miles West of Kabul
Afghanistan — Afghan security forces battling the Taliban about 30 miles west of Kabul have sustained heavy casualties, officials said Saturday, as senior members of the government criticized the response to the assault as slow and ineffective.
Details of the fighting in Wardak Province, which began Thursday, were murky, but statements by various officials said that between 16 and 30 members of the Afghan Local Police, a militia controlled by the Interior Ministry, were killed, along with at least two civilians. Some of the dead were decapitated, officials said.
The fighting was taking place in the province’s Jalrez district, which lies on a strategically important highway connecting Kabul, the capital, to the central province of Bamiyan. The highway was closed Saturday, said Masood Shneezai, deputy chief of Wardak’s provincial council.
A spokesman for Wardak’s governor said 30 members of the Taliban had been killed and 18 wounded.
Mr. Shneezai said the Taliban had overrun about 11 security checkpoints since the battle began. He accused the province’s police chief, Gen. Khalil Andarabi, of negligence and expressed concern that the insurgents could threaten Kabul if Jalrez fell. “There is only one mountain separating Jalrez from Paghman,” Mr. Shneezai said, referring to a district on the outskirts of the capital.
Security officials said hundreds of supporting forces, who reached the area on Friday and Saturday, had taken back at least seven of the checkpoints and secured the government buildings in central Jalrez.
Senior officials in Kabul, including Vice President Sarwar Danish, were among the critics of the security forces’ response to the assault, underscoring the dysfunctional nature of Afghanistan’s power-sharing government as it struggles to push back an intense Taliban offensive across the country.
Mr. Danish, who called the Taliban assault a “brutal and unacceptable tragedy,” accused officials in Wardak of “negligence and delay” and a “lack of responsibility and coordination.”
Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq, the deputy chief executive of the coalition government, said that 22 security personnel had been killed and “their bodies chopped up to pieces and burned after their martyrdom” while units of an Afghan police force headquartered nearby provided no support.
Mr. Mohaqeq said the 22 men had belonged to the Hazara ethnic group and suggested that that was a reason for the failure to respond, comparing the incident to the mass killings of Hazaras that occurred in central Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
Source : Nytimes