The Taliban has launched several operations across Afghanistan claiming scores of police officers' lives, underscoring the dangers faced by state security forces working alongside the U.S. occupation. At least 70 people have been killed in the coordinated Taliban operations.
There is speculation that the attacks were retaliation for recent incidents in provinces along the border with neighboring Pakistan that claimed over 60 lives of Afghan civilians or militants in the past week alone.
The largest attack occurred at a police training center in Gardez, located in the eastern Paktia province. The onslaught began when a U.S.-provided truck and armored vehicle seized from security forces were packed with explosives and detonated prior to an armed assault by a number of Taliban fighters.
At least 21 police officers were killed, including the Paktia provincial police chief, with 48 others wounded, according to government officials. The attack also left at least 20 civilians dead and 110 wounded, the Interior Ministry said. Security forces claim they killed at least five attackers.
It remains unclear whether the civilians worked with police or security personnel.
In a statement released online, the Taliban took responsibility for the attack and claimed that “over 73 joint enemy personnel” were killed while several dozens more were wounded.
The death tolls given by the U.S.-backed Afghan state security forces and the Taliban's Mujahideen are usually wildly at odds.
“We stand against these criminals and defend every inch of our country and will never allow our country to become safe-haven for terrorist and their affiliates,” a statement from the office of President Ashraf Ghani said.
The Taliban are fighting to drive out foreign forces in hopes to re-establish its “Islamic Emirate.” From 1996 until its 2001 ousting, the group applied a strict interpretation of theocratic law based on local rural traditions.
The Taliban also attacked the center of Shalgar district in neighboring Ghazni province on Tuesday, detonating an armored Humvee vehicle packed with explosives near the provincial governor's office in what they called a “martyr attack.”
Provincial officials said at least 15 government security forces were killed and 12 wounded in the Ghazni attacks, with 13 civilians killed and seven wounded. The operation included attacks on separate combat posts.
The Taliban claim to have killed as many as 31 “joint enemy personnel” while injuring 21 in the Shalgar attack. 7 other state security personnel were killed, 4 wounded, and 5 tanks were destroyed when reinforcements arriving to fend off the attacks were ambushed and an Afghan army base came under attack, according to the group. The group claims to have seized a large cache of ammunition.
The bomb attacks against Afghan police follow a series of recent U.S. drone strikes that have killed scores of locals along the border with Pakistan.
During a widely-reported incident in Kunar province last week, a U.S. drone strike claimed the lives of around 20 people. While police claim those attacked were insurgents and commanders of the Islamic State group – a bitter foe of the local Taliban – local residents and Taliban spokesmen say those attacked were innocent civilians who had gathered for a wedding procession.
The Taliban also claim that the drone strike was followed by a night raid on two civilian homes in Nangarhar province, where civilian eyewitnesses allegedly saw nine innocent civilians get pulled out of their homes prior to being “ruthlessly executed one-by-one.” The Taliban claim that residents “said that the martyred people did not even know how to fire a gun.”
Both incidents were followed by angry articles posted to the Taliban's English-language website where the group excoriated “the series of civilian massacres by the brutal and ruthless enemy,” casting doubt on the ability of the U.S.-led NATO force “and their internal mercenaries” to quell the Afghan resistance and “force them to accept their malicious presence and illegitimate invasion.”
There were also reports of two suspected U.S. drone strikes on Tuesday that killed 11 people alongside the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border, following a strike on Monday that killed 20 alleged members of the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, allied to the Taliban, according to Reuters.
Deputy Interior Minister General Murad Ali Murad claims the "enemies and their foreign backers" - without identifying them – face huge pressure from the Afghans and their foreign backers, which is why the attacks were launched just as peace talks are gaining momentum.
President Ghani has called on the Taliban to opt for “ballots instead of bullets” and to renounce the use of violence and join peace talks. The group has derided the U.S.-allied Kabul as “an abhorrent stooge regime (of) slaves and mercenaries,” noting that “talks about peace during the presence of invaders will not yield results and are meaningless.”