43 Dead in Taliban Attack on Afghan Army Base

The Taliban have carried out two suicide car bombings at an army base in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, setting of several hours of fighting and killing at least 43 soldiers, the defense ministry and an Afghan official said Thursday.

“A group of insurgents attacked an army base in Chashmo area of Maiwand district in Kandahar province,” the defense ministry said in a statement, adding nine soldiers were wounded and six are unaccounted for.

Khalid Pashtun, a member of parliament from the province, also provided the same toll from the attack, which began late Wednesday.

The Taliban claimed the attack in a media statement.

Afghan forces have struggled to combat a resurgent Taliban since the US and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014. They have also suffered shocking casualties over the past year.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a Taliban ambush in the northern Balkh province late Wednesday killed six police, according to Shir Jan Durani, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

Meanwhile, the death toll from two suicide and gun attacks on Afghan security forces in southeast Afghanistan has risen to 80 with nearly 300 wounded, officials said Wednesday.

Army Sgt. Held Captive in Afghanistan Faces Life in Prison

Washington- Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who vanished in Afghanistan and spent five years in brutal captivity before the United States recovered him in a controversial prisoner swap, pleaded guilty Monday to two crimes in connection with his disappearance.

Bergdahl, now 31, was a private first class when he went missing in 2009. Appearing in an Army courtroom at Fort Bragg, N.C., he entered guilty pleas to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

The desertion charge could yield up to five years’ confinement. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Rarely used, it’s applied when service members run away, surrender or otherwise endanger fellow troops’ safety through disobedience, neglect or intentional misconduct.

“I understand that leaving was against the law,” he told the judge, according to the Associated Press, adding later, “I believed they would notice me missing, but I didn’t believe they would have reason to search for one private.”

Bergdahl walked away from his combat outpost just before midnight June 29, 2009, in what an Army investigation determined was an attempt to cause a crisis and draw attention to concerns that Bergdahl had about his leaders. The soldier was captured within hours by  armed Taliban fighters on motorcycles and turned over to the Haqqani network, a group in Pakistan that tortured him on and off for years.

A US Special Forces team recovered Bergdahl in May 2014 as part of a deal in which the Obama administration released five Taliban operatives held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The move was bitterly protested by some critics, including Donald Trump, who declared during his bid for the White House that Bergdahl was a traitor. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office concluded that the Obama administration violated the law by failing to provide Congress with sufficient notice about its plans.

Obama administration officials defended the prisoner swap, saying the United States does not leave soldiers behind on the battlefield.

Bergdahl was charged in March 2015. It is not clear what punishment he will receive from the case’s judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance. He is expected to be sentenced at Fort Bragg in an Oct. 23 hearing that could include testimony from several US service members and veterans who Nance ruled this year were injured while searching for Bergdahl.

Thousands of US troops were involved in that effort over Bergdahl’s five years in captivity.

Nance also could take into account Bergdahl’s treatment in Pakistan. An Army physician who testified in the case found that Bergdahl, who was at times kept in a cage, suffered muscular nerve damage in his lower legs, degenerative back damage and a loss of range in motion in his left shoulder that prevents him from lifting heavy objects. In addition to confinement, Bergdahl could receive a dishonorable discharge and lose his medical benefits.

Bergdahl’s defense team has said he was unable to receive a fair trial due to Trump’s repeated attacks. One attorney, Eugene Fidell, accused Trump of treating Bergdahl as “a political chew toy,” but Nance rejected a request to dismiss the case on grounds that Trump had unlawfully altered the course of the case.

In an interview published by ABC News on Monday, Bergdahl complained bitterly about his prospect of a fair trial due to Trump, and said it was “insulting” that some critics accuse him of sympathizing with the Taliban.

“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said. “The people who want to hang me — you’re never going to convince those people.”

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, a senior Army officer who interviewed Bergdahl, testified in 2015 that he found Bergdahl “unrealistically idealistic” and believed a jail sentence would be inappropriate, given the circumstances of the case. A military doctor determined that Bergdahl, who had previously washed out of the Coast Guard, exhibited symptoms of a mental disorder known as schizotypal personality disorder, which is considered a variant of schizophrenia that has less frequent or intense psychotic episodes.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser, said in the ABC News report published Monday that he also does not think that Bergdahl deserves jail time.

“So the guy deserted his men, his soldiers, his squad — no doubt,” Flynn said. “[But] I don’t think he should serve another day in any sort of confinement or jail or anything like that, because frankly, even though he put himself into this situation to a degree, we — the United States government and the United States military — put him in Afghanistan.”

The Washington Post

At Least 10 Killed in Taliban Attacks in Afghanistan


At least 12 people were killed on Tuesday in a suicide car bomb attack against a police headquarters in Afghanistan.

The attack targeted a police training center attached to the headquarters in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, officials said.

Officials and militants said that 60 people were wounded in the assault.

At least two attackers were also killed, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Three officials told Reuters that the provincial police chief was among the dead, but the ministry said it could only confirm that he had been wounded.

Both civilians and security forces were among the casualties, deputy public health director Hedayatullah Hameedi said.

“At the moment the area is sealed by the Crisis Response Unit and efforts are ongoing to eliminate the terrorists,” the ministry statement said.

In the western Farah province, police chief Abdul Maruf Fulad said the Taliban attacked a government compound in Shibkho district, killing three policemen.

In southern Ghazni province, the Taliban stormed a security compound, using a suicide car, and killed at least seven policemen.

Provincial chief police, Mohammad Zaman, stated that the attack in Andar district early on Tuesday morning triggered several hours of heavy fighting until the attackers were repelled.

The district compound has been destroyed, he added.

Afghan Newspaper Hunts Corruption, but First It Has to Pay the Rent

Zaki Daryabi, the founder of Etilaat e Roz, scrolling through the day’s news one evening at his office in Kabul.

KABUL, Afghanistan — The first time Zaki Daryabi started a small newspaper in Afghanistan, it shut down within months. Mr. Daryabi, who had just graduated from university in Kabul, lost most of the money lent to him by friends to start his business.

But soon after, he restarted the newspaper, Etilaat e Roz. And now, five years later, it has found itself in the middle of some of Afghanistan’s most important national conversations.

The publication remains on financial life support. Mr. Daryabi often finds himself writing desperate grant proposals, asking creditors for a little more patience or amplifying the paper’s online presence on days when he can’t afford the $250 required to publish in print.

At the same time, though, Mr. Daryabi’s journalists churn out investigative reports that stir what has become an increasingly chaotic Afghan democracy, with its warlords and ethnic factions often needing reminders of the rules of the new game and the role of the news media in it.

The growth of the free Afghan news media is one of the biggest achievements since the toppling of the Taliban by an international coalition in 2001.

Under the Taliban, there was only the regime’s state radio and newspaper. Today, there are more than 300 radio and 200 television channels, more than 70 newspapers, and hundreds of magazines across Afghanistan.

The numbers, however, often overshadow the draining work and risks these news organizations take.

Newspapers in particular, most of which have been subsidized by donor funding over the past 15 years, face not just financial worries, but also the nagging question of whether they can really bring about change in a country where power often lies less in the constitutional order and more at the hands of strongmen and their patronage.

Coping with the political pressures, and the financial challenges, is a daily struggle.

For publishers like Mr. Daryabi, newspaper work means living a life of debt, and often making life awkward for loved ones. As his paper has published reports critical of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, Mr. Daryabi’s relationship with his father, a Ghani supporter, has become strained. His father does not understand why his son keeps embarrassing him in front of his friends.

“When I am sometimes thinking about leaving it all, it’s not about myself — it’s about my twins, and their future,” said Mr. Daryabi, the father of twin boys.

Etilaat e Roz operates out of a third-floor apartment in western Kabul, where a team of 10 starts late in the morning and works late into the night. The operation is so small that for major investigations Mr. Daryabi and his chief editor become reporters.

The paper has several distributors, on bicycle, who deliver the 3,000 copies at dawn five days a week. It relies heavily on its colorful online presence, with 300,000 subscribers to its Facebook page.

Advertisements cover only about 30 percent of the paper’s costs. Mr. Daryabi recently obtained a grant from Open Society Foundation for about $50,000, which will cover another 30 percent for the coming year.

There have been weeks when the paper hasn’t printed, simply putting the content online. During one of those stretches last year, Mr. Daryabi admits, he came closest to the lure of political money — accepting a onetime payment of $3,000 from former President Hamid Karzai’s foundation, arranged by one of his editors, who had once worked in the president’s office and told him that the paper was shutting down.

Mr. Daryabi’s team, after much internal debate, accepted the money and put it toward the rent.

The paper has conducted detailed investigations of the family networks that have controlled much of the Afghan state resources, including Mr. Karzai’s family; it devoted an entire issue to how some of these networks joined up in a scheme that took out about $900 million in reckless loans that collapsed the country’s biggest bank.

It has also investigated the sale by Mr. Ghani’s administration of a large section of prime real estate in Kabul at a dirt-cheap price to an election supporter.

Last week, the paper published a series of articles about ethnic favoritism in the presidential palace, a sensitive issue in a country that has long struggled with equality.

For months, Mr. Daryabi’s team and others had reported that Pashtuns made up the circle of people closest to Mr. Ghani’s office, marginalizing other ethnic groups in the most important conversations.

His paper found a document that was a smoking gun of sorts.

A senior employee of Mr. Ghani’s administrative office had shared a memo on an internal Telegram channel, highlighting how members of other ethnicities should be sidelined in favor of Pashtuns. Within minutes, the employee had written in the group again: “wrong channel.”

It was too late. The memo was leaked to the news media, and Mr. Daryabi’s team picked on it, carefully documenting every step of their reporting, and knowing that the authenticity of a document on an explosive issue like ethnic prejudice would be questioned.

The articles set off a week of intense debates across Afghan television channels and newspapers, and particularly on social media, where many lashed out at Mr. Daryabi and his paper.

Daud Noorzai, the new head of Mr. Ghani’s administrative office, insisted that the memo was the work of one individual and did not reflect the deeper thinking of the office he was leading. But that did not ease concerns about rot in the system.

Mr. Ghani, who was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly at the time, ordered his attorney general to conduct an inquiry.

To Mr. Daryabi and his team, Mr. Noorzai’s acknowledgment of the problem and Mr. Ghani’s promise of accountability were a much needed victory during another difficult stretch when they had been contemplating shutting their enterprise down.

“In an environment where being branded and stamped as partisan is so common, we want our newspaper to stand for one thing: a newspaper,” said Khalil Pajhwok, the chief editor. “We are after earning trust as a professional media that doesn’t take sides, and that means we have to do trustworthy work, without censorship, that is factual.”

Mr. Daryabi was raised in a village in Jaghori, an enigma district of sorts that has a robust culture of books and ideas in an otherwise restive Ghazni Province. He is 31, based on the date his father scribbled on the back of the family’s copy of the Quran.

Or he is 28, based on how old the district governor thought he looked when he signed Mr. Daryabi’s ID card and officially registered his age when he began his university studies in Kabul.

As a student of political science, Mr. Daryabi started writing articles for a local newspaper, getting paid about $5 a piece. After graduation, he cobbled together about $16,000 from friends and family to start Etilaat e Roz, which in its first incarnation largely focused on entertainment.

After it closed, Mr. Daryabi, who does not speak much English, was called by a printing house to lead an English paper started primarily to make money from advertisements. Mr. Daryabi took the job on the condition that he could use the company’s resources to restart Etilaat e Roz. They had a deal.

After a year of running two newspapers, he could afford to work full-time on Etilaat e Roz, which now focused on politics.

Mr. Daryabi said that in those days, in 2012, there was more optimism about the country’s future and the media’s role in it.

But the difficult years since — with a messy election that threatened to break the country apart, a violent Taliban onslaught and his paper’s financial issues — have not beaten him down completely, he said.

“The raw material for a democracy is still there,” he said.

(The New York Times)

Afghan Officials: US Drone Kills 14 ISIS Militants

A U.S. airman guides a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it taxis to the runway at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Josh Smith/Files

A US drone strike has killed 14 ISIS militants in a remote area in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, Afghan officials said Saturday.

Abdul Ghani Musamim, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the strike took place on Thursday afternoon in the Chawkay district.

He said it targeted a meeting of ISIS commanders planning for a terrorist attack.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, Dawlat Waziri, confirmed the report. But there was no immediate comment from the US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Lawmaker Shazada Shaheed rejected the report, claiming the victims of the strike were civilians.

The government has no control of the remote area where Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate has managed to establish a presence.

The top US commander for the Middle East, Gen. Joseph Votel, said Friday that American troops in Afghanistan have begun working with smaller Afghan units to prepare them for a more aggressive offensive against the Taliban next year in a push to break the stalemate in the 16-year-old war.

Votel said there is still much more work to be done to improve Afghan forces. But he is seeing some positive trends in the fight.

US-Canadian Family Held 5 Years by Taliban Leaves Pakistan

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their children have left Pakistan after being rescued from the Taliban, who held them for five years, Pakistani officials said Friday.

Caitlan Coleman of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, her husband Joshua Boyle, along with their three children left by plane from Islamabad on Friday, two Pakistani security officials said. But they did not reveal where the family was headed.

The couple have reportedly told US officials and their families they wanted to fly commercially to Canada.

Pakistan said Thursday it rescued the family after their captors moved them across the border from Afghanistan, adding the rescue was made possible by intelligence provided by the US.

The couple was kidnapped in October 2012 while on a backpacking trip that took them to Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan. All three children were born in captivity.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump said that Pakistan’s cooperation in securing the release of the couple and their children signaled a new respect for Washington by Islamabad.

“The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America’s wish that it do more to provide security in the region,” Trump said at a White House event. “They worked very hard on this and I believe they are starting to respect the United States again.”

Head of the US Central Command General Joseph Votel also said the freeing of the couple and their children was a
positive sign and a recognition of how seriously Islamabad takes the protection of American citizens.

“We are very appreciative for the efforts of the Pakistani military in helping effect the securing of our American hostages that have been held there, and a Canadian citizen, for quite some time,” said Votel.

“It is a positive sign that they (recognized) the importance, they (recognized) the opportunity, they acted quickly and very responsibly to get control of these persons and begin to effect their return,” Votel told reporters.

Boyle’s father called the rescue a “miracle.” Coleman’s parents, Jim and Lyn Coleman, meanwhile, posted a statement on the door of their Pennsylvania home expressing joy. Lyn Coleman said “I am in a state of euphoria, stunned and overjoyed,” in an interview with ABC News.

Coleman’s parents last had a conversation with their son-in-law on Oct. 8, 2012, via an email sent from an internet cafe he’d described as being in an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan. From then on, there were only desperate hostage videos released by their captors and hand-scrawled letters mailed home.

Taliban Not Sending Delegation to Muscat for New Afghan Peace Talks


Kabul, Peshawar – At least eight Taliban militants have been killed in a US air strike in eastern Afghanistan, an Afghan news agency reported.

The air strike came as Reuters said that representatives of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States will meet in the Sultanate of Oman next week to discuss reviving peace talks with the Taliban.

But an Afghan official and a Pakistani foreign ministry source said it was not clear if Afghan Taliban representatives would join the talks. Taliban sources said they had not yet received an invitation and plan to skip Monday’s discussions in Muscat, casting doubt on efforts to revive long-stalled negotiations.

According to Reuters, the four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QGC), comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States, has been trying to ease the path to direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with little success.

Amin Waqad, a close aide to Agfhan President Ashraf Ghani and a senior member of the High Peace Council (HPC), said, “HPC and government representatives will participate, and it is an important one because the Taliban representatives will be there. We will go with a clear plan.”

A senior Pakistani foreign ministry official confirmed the talks would take place on Oct 16. Last week, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told Voice of America the “quadrilateral arrangement will again be in operation” in Muscat in October.

The US embassy in Islamabad did not comment for the report.

Talks and efforts to kick start negotiations have failed following the 2015 announcement of the death of the Taliban’s founder and long-time leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, in 2013.

Two senior Afghan Taliban leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the group’s leadership council met on Tuesday and decided it would not send a delegation to Muscat even if the group was invited to participate.

Meanwhile, at least eight Taliban members were killed in an air strike carried out by the United States for the first time in Badakhshan Province, years after the US military had suspended its operations in the region, Khaama Press reported.

Locals said the air strike targeted the province on Tuesday night.

Forced Child Marriage … an Afghan Tragedy

Kabul – Afghanistan is a place where all too often a young girl’s dreams die. But not always.

So it has been with three Afghan friends, whose unrelated cases were all so awful that they are painful to talk about even now that the three are young women, years after the trauma. Each of them escaped a forced marriage as a child, is lucky to be alive, and knows it. Each of them has big dreams — despite what has happened, and because of it.

For one of them, Gul Meena, 18, dreams have already started coming true. Last month she boarded a flight from Kabul to Östersund, Sweden, via Istanbul and Stockholm, accompanied by an American lawyer. It was Gul Meena’s first time in an airplane, first time out of her country, first time that, as she put it before, “I will be free.”

Gul Meena’s first dream was to escape Afghanistan. Her next was to have a television set in her room. She said she wanted to see how her favorite Indian soap opera ends.

Her biggest dream is to become a doctor, an ambition inspired by the three months Gul Meena spent in the hospital — a time of three operations that she remembers, and several more she does not.

“I want to help other girls who suffered violence,” she said. First, though, she is hopeful that Swedish medical care will be able to cure the severe headaches that have made it hard for her to concentrate on her studies; she has reached only fifth grade and can barely read.

Gul Meena was illegally married at age 13. When she discovered that she had become the third wife of a grandfather, she ran away in horror. Her brother and uncle, intent on avenging the family’s honor, tracked her down and attacked her with an ax, smashing her head so badly that part of her brain spilled out of her skull. Somehow she survived, and was given refuge in the Women for Afghan Women shelter in Kabul.

There she made two fast friends, Sahar Gul and Mumtaz. They did not discuss their traumatic pasts with one another, but they were otherwise quite close, all survivors of violence and wrongful marriages.

On one of her visits to the shelter, their American pro bono lawyer, Kimberley Motley, brought along several picture books, easy readers for young children. Sahar Gul is also 18; she is now in the seventh grade and can read a bit, so she read the books to Gul Meena and to Mumtaz, who is now 26.

Sahar Gul took the news of her friend’s departure hard, even though she knew it was coming. “When I heard, I thought that I am a ghost,” she said last month. “I am so sad to be losing my friend. On the other side, I am so happy that she will be free, and will make a life for herself.”

Gul Meena, on her last full day in Afghanistan, was so nervous that she couldn’t steady her hands; the other girls in the shelter helped her dress. Her housemates approached her, bursting into tears.

“I’m not going to miss Afghanistan because I don’t even know how Afghanistan looks,” Gul Meena said. She entered the shelter as a child, and like the other girls there, she has not been allowed outside the compound since then, except under escort by staff — for safety, and under government-imposed restrictions on women’s shelters.

Sahar Gul’s family sold her as a child, at age 13 or even younger, to people who tried to force her into prostitution through torture; they pulled out her fingernails, drugged and raped her, and sexually assaulted her with hot pokers.

“My brother sold me like a sheep to that family,” Sahar Gul said. “I was so small when they sent me to that husband, I didn’t even know what a husband was.” After she was rescued from her two-year ordeal, doctors discovered that she had not yet begun to menstruate.

As with the other two friends, Sahar Gul’s plight drew international publicity, and Women for Afghan Women brought her to its shelter. For months, she barely spoke.

Gul Meena was the same: “Every night I couldn’t sleep, I thought that someone was coming to kill me with an ax.”

Gul Meena, a Pashto speaker, and Sahar Gul, a Dari speaker, did not know each other’s language, and knew none of the details of what had happened to the other, but they began keeping each other company for reasons neither can explain.

The shelter staff had kept mirrors away from Gul Meena, but one day she saw herself and was stunned at how badly her face had been damaged. “I didn’t even recognize myself,” she said. “I was so ugly.” Sahar Gul consoled her, telling her friend she was beautiful.

Gradually the girls came out of their shells. Sahar Gul applied herself to her studies, determined to become a lawyer. “If I am a lawyer, I can help other women, too,” she said.

Mumtaz was the last of the three to arrive at the shelter. She was the victim of an acid attack by a militia commander angry that her family had refused his offer of marriage because, among other things, she was too young.
Both of the younger girls were seeking asylum abroad, but only Gul Meena had any prospect of success. 

The New York Times

Red Cross to ‘Drastically’ Cut Afghan Operations After Attacks

Afghan men unload a coffin of killed ICRC employee from a car at a hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif

Kabul- The International Committee of the Red Cross will “drastically” reduce operations in war-torn Afghanistan after seven of its employees were killed in attacks this year, the aid group said on Monday.

The announcement underlines the deteriorating security for aid groups in Afghanistan, where the ICRC has been operating for more than 30 years and has been running its fourth biggest humanitarian program.

“Exposure to risk has become our greatest challenge and concern,” Monica Zanarelli, head of the ICRC in Afghanistan, told a news conference in the capital, Kabul.

“We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence in Afghanistan,” she said, adding that the decision would particularly affect operations in the north, where facilities in Kunduz, Faryab, and Balkh provinces would be closed or downsized.

Red Cross officials said the assessments are ongoing and could not say how many of its 1,800 staff would be affected.

The humanitarian group will close its facilities in the northern city of Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, and in Kunduz province, also in the north and a hotbed of Taliban activity.

Operations in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif will be scaled back.

The group has suffered a series of deadly attacks in northern Afghanistan, where Taliban and ISIS group militants have intensified their assaults on police and troops.

In February six ICRC employees were killed when their convoy came under insurgent attack in the northern province of Jowzjan.

Two of their colleagues were abducted in a separate incident and only released by their captors last month.

No group claimed responsibility for the abduction or killings, but Jowzjan police have blamed local ISIS jihadists who are making inroads in the country.

In the most recent attack, a Spanish physiotherapist working for the ICRC in northern Afghanistan last month was shot and killed by a wheelchair-bound patient.

Lorena Enebral Perez, 38, was shot inside the aid group’s rehabilitation center in Mazar-i-Sharif, where she treated disabled children, women and men including amputees.

Two people were arrested over the deadly attack, including the 21-year-old shooter whom police said was a “regular patient”.

Last December a Spanish Red Cross employee was abducted when workers from the charity were traveling between Mazar-i-Sharif and neighboring Kunduz. He was released several weeks later.

The ICRC has around 1,800 staff including 120 international aid workers in Afghanistan — helping wounded and disabled people, supporting hospitals, making prison visits and assisting prisoners to maintain contact with their families.

In many areas such as the north, they are the only international organization providing such services.

“We understand the consequences to stop our activities in the north but we have no choice,” Zanarelli added.

She said the organization was not leaving Afghanistan but to prevent more losses the “necessity of reviewing our presence is strongly requested”.

The spreading conflict has combined with an increase in criminality, making for more “blurred lines” between the various armed groups which complicate efforts to safely provide aid, Zanarelli said.

“I would say there are more gray areas than there were in the past, and this is certainly what is affecting our capacity to assess our security,” she said.

According to US military estimates, the government controls no more than 60 percent of the country, with the rest either controlled or contested by the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Afghan Policemen Killed, Injured in Suicide Attack

At least a dozen Afghan security forces were killed when a suicide attacker blew himself up in the southern province of Kandahar, police said Thursday.

“Twelve security forces were killed and four others were wounded” in the attack in which an explosives-packed Humvee was used, Kandahar police spokesman Zia Durrani told Agence France Presse.

The Taliban claimed the deadly assault on the government and police headquarters in Maroof district that also wounded several others.

Durrani said the Taliban attackers had been “defeated.”

A border police commander in Maroof, which borders Pakistan, gave a slightly higher toll, telling AFP that 14 security personnel had been killed and eight wounded in the attack that happened late Wednesday. 

“The intensity of the blast caused damage to the building and led to casualties,” he said.

“The clean-up operation is under way in the area.”

The attack is the latest deadly assault by the Taliban, which has been on the offensive since US-led NATO combat troops withdrew in 2014 and now controls swathes of territory across the country. 

During a high-profile visit by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, insurgents launched a volley of rockets near the city’s international airport.

A US airstrike launched in support of Afghan security forces who had confronted the attackers caused “several casualties” when a missile malfunctioned. 

One person was killed and 11 others wounded in the assault that lasted several hours, according to the interior ministry.