The Afghan government claimed on Tuesday that the Taliban attacked a security camp run by the U.S. military, killing or wounding nearly 80 people.
That could make for a good storyline if the U.S. troops weren’t training, supporting, assisting and advising Afghan soldiers and policemen across the country. It would have been particularly cruel if the attack had been carried out by a man with an Afghan passport or another armed Afghan living on U.S. soil. But it didn’t happen that way.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Kunar province, 50 miles east of Kabul, that was so broad and so effective, it effectively turned into a war against the Taliban, making the civilian casualties that American troops die fighting in Afghanistan part of the war.
The attack was facilitated, if that’s the right word, by Taliban activity in neighboring Pakistan and the NATO supply line from Kandahar to Kabul via Chaman, Pakistan. Pakistan has been the target of militant attacks as the AfPak coalition members have negotiated a new treaty in Afghanistan.
Pakistan would not stop insurgents crossing the border in the next two weeks, to prevent mass casualties and the deaths of many Afghan soldiers. The Taliban had threatened further violence unless the Taliban’s national leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, could be killed. Mansour was killed this weekend, reportedly by U.S. drones.
Falkenhall, the Taliban’s Khyber seat, serves as a clearinghouse for supplies moving to and from Afghanistan. The supply route through Chaman on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was severed at the opening of the spring fighting season in early April. One year ago, that supply route stretched for more than 800 miles from Kandahar, the center of NATO operations, through the Pakistani provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika and Nangarhar, and over to Peshawar.
(US Central Command has set up a temporary supply line to provide partial support to its Afghan allies for the Afghan army until the rest of that supply line resumes.)
This year’s supply line was disrupted only a week or so into the fighting season. NATO forces had intended to repair the supply line before the Taliban would have a chance to cut the supply line. Instead, NATO forces established a small limited supply line. The U.S. Army Air Forces Europe said it opened last Friday, June 4.
Right after the U.S. said the Taliban attack on the military base in Kunar was a cowardly attack and the Taliban denied involvement. But then the Taliban appeared on television claiming it had carried out the attack. They said it was “a part of our spring offensive” to hit areas near the Pakistan border. They had said they intended to follow up with some actions at the end of June. The attacks on the Chaman transit point and the security facility in Kunar would be part of that attack.
This spring the Taliban began to emerge on a nationwide basis in many places in Afghanistan. It also began to show that it can still kill large numbers of Afghan soldiers and police in the south. But it proved last Saturday in Kunar that it had also attacked the western base for Afghan intelligence in the Spedar district.
The main airport in Kunar and the Chaman transit route were the targets of the attack. In addition to the Taliban militants who threw grenades at Afghan army and police forces, the militants looted government buildings. There is some evidence the Taliban had contact with Pakistani Taliban militants who say they support Mansour.
In the south of Afghanistan, the Taliban has primarily attacked bases used by Afghan security forces. But in the north, insurgents have attacked the over 40,000 Afghan forces being trained by international troops in all three provinces of Kunduz, Takhar and Farah.
The Taliban strategy has been build up by killing off troops and Afghan police and soldiers from the government side, to make the government’s fight in the south less effective. In Kunduz, the attacks have made it harder for the Afghan government to conduct a large operation to retake the city of Kunduz, an important goal of U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2014.