- The Taliban has been using captured US-made vehicles in deadly attacks on Afghan forces.
- The group has had a resurgence in recent months, retaking territory and killing scores of police and soldiers.
- The US is set to intensify its 16-year presence in the war-torn country.
A Taliban attack on an Afghan military base in Kandahar on Thursday killed at least 43 of the 60 soldiers stationed at the base. Nine were wounded and six were missing after the nighttime attack, which left only two soldiers unscathed.
The assault was launched when a US-made Humvee packed with explosives was driven into the base’s gate and detonated, a Afghan army official said.
Taliban gunmen then continued what became and hours-long attack, marked by a second Humvee driving all the way into the base and detonating. A spokesman for coalition military command in Kabul confirmed that US forces conducted an airstrike to support Afghan forces during the attack.
“When the clashes started, they detonated a car bomb close to the base, then clashes continued for a while and then they detonated another car bomb. They also had Humvees packed with explosives,” a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry told The New York Times. “The whole base is destroyed.”
According to The Times, driving captured vehicles into police and military bases and blowing them up has become one of the Taliban’s most recent and most deadly tactics.
On Tuesday, dozens of Afghan police officers, including a senior general, were among roughly 70 people killed in similar attacks in Ghazni and Paktia provinces in the country’s southeast.
In an attack in the capital of Paktia province, insurgents exploded large truck outside the police headquarters, destroying the walls. Two police pickup trucks and a Humvee were then driven into the base and detonated. Afghan officials said 41 people were killed, 21 of them police, and more than 150 people were wounded.
The attack in Ghazni province saw a Humvee filled with explosives driven into the district center. The blast destroyed as many as 30 residential buildings as well as the nearby district governor’s and police compounds, according to The Times. Twenty-five police officers were killed and 10 wounded, while five civilians were killed.
The US has spent billions during its 16-year war in Afghanistan, but it appears to have yielded few lasting gains.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported last year that 63.4% of the country’s districts were under government control as of August, a slight decrease from May that year. At the end of 2016, the Taliban was through to control more territory in the country than at any time since 2001, and the Afghan government has reportedly lost control of nearly 5% of its territory in 2017. Opium-poppy cultivation also rose 10% in 2016.
ISIS is also present in the country and has been targeted by the US.
The US has some 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, and President Donald Trump plans to send 4,000 more. The US has also intensified its air war in Afghanistan, dropping 751 bombs in September, the highest-single month total in seven years.