Thursday evening Taliban gunmen stormed police checkpoints in the Charamgar area located on the outskirts of Tarin Kot, the provincial capital of Urzugan province. Tarin Kot finds itself once again under threat of collapse as Taliban forces up their attacks following the end of Eid festivities across the country.
Provincial council chairman Abdul Karim Khadimzai claimed upwards of 22 policemen had been killed and 11 others wounded in the attack. Local officials further claimed that the commander for the Afghan Local Police (ALP) for the region was killed in the three hour clash.
Further reports indicate that the key highway connecting Tarin Kot to Kandahar City has been closed by militant forces, and Afghan commando forces were working to reopen the strategic corridor.
“The way is closed, but we are ready to reopen it for traffic. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of the highway,” said Fazl Noor, a commando in Uruzgan.
“We can reopen the highway within 24 hours, but the problem is that we want to protect civilians in our military operations,” said Adam Khan, another commando in the province.
On Sunday, U.S. forces accidentally struck and killed eight Afghan police officers in the embattled city in an airstrike. The U.S. military confirmed the air strike took place but said that it was in response to an attack on Afghan National Security Forces.
“We don’t have any further information on who those individuals might have been or why they were attacking ANDSF (Afghan national defense and security forces),” U.S. military spokesman Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said in a statement.
“U.S., coalition, and Afghan forces have the right to self-defense and in this case were responding to an immediate threat.”
Afghan officials are currently investigating the strike.
Taliban forces have relaunched their attack on the small provincial capital after their failure to seize the city earlier this September. The arrival of forces under General Raziq, the feared police commander of Kandahar, bolstered by NATO airstrikes pushed the resurgent militant threat to the outskirts of the city.
Raziq has vowed not to leave the city until it is completely cleared of Taliban militants. Sporadic clashes are still heard and witnessed throughout the city.
Raziq’s absence from his stronghold of Kandahar has left vulnerabilities in the region. On September 12, gunmen dressed as doctors stormed the Mirwais hospital located in Kandahar. In an hour long gunfight, the militants managed to kill one patient and wound several others before being killed by security forces. An Afghan official claimed that an Afghan intelligence officer and policeman were killed in the gun battle.
On September 20, Taliban forces attacked a military outpost in the Kekhi Kotal area of Kandahar province, killing five security forces.
Kandahar has witnessed an increase in attacks since Raziq’s departure to prevent Tarin Kot’s collapse to Taliban forces. With renewed attacks on the city, the general’s services and forces will once again be needed to stave off a fall of the provincial capital. The overreliance of Ghani’s administration on Raziq for its war plans in the south risk plunging the entire region to the Taliban, should Raziq be killed.