Taleban ‘strikes’ show of strength – Afghan warlord killed

Afghan men offer funeral prayers behind the body of civilian killed in Friday night’s suicide attack at the Shiite mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan on Oct 21. (AP)

KABUL, Oct 22, (Agencies): A spate of deadly Taleban attacks targeting Afghan forces this week was a show of strength against Donald Trump’s new strategy, and signalled a push to strike security bases rather than cities, analysts said. In three of the four ambushes since Tuesday, militants used bomb-laden Humvees to blast their way into targets, seeking to demoralise war-weary security forces, and steal weapons and vehicles to fuel their insurgency.

It marks a change in focus from recent years when the Taleban fought to control and hold provincial capitals, such as the northern city of Kunduz, which briefly fell to the militants twice in the past 24 months. “(The Taleban) want to be showing their potency after the summer unveiling of the Trump policy of staying on with larger forces,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “They haven’t tried to hold provincial capitals … they are not wasting their assets on that.”

Militants have launched several devastating assaults on security forces already this year, including an attack on a base in northern Mazar- i-Sharif in the spring in which at least 144 people were killed. But this week stands apart for the number of attacks on security forces in such a short time — five in as many days with around 150 military, police and civilians killed — and coming after the US and Afghan forces have stepped up their own offensives.

Two separate attacks on mosques — one of which was claimed by the Islamic State group — took the overall death toll to around 200 for the week. Meanwhile, an Afghan official says a bomb has killed a former warlord and his bodyguard, and wounded eight other people.

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