“Afghan security forces battling the Taliban in Jalrez about 30 miles west of Kabul have sustained heavy casualties” officials said Saturday, a senior members of the government criticized the response to the assault as slow and ineffective.
Details of the fighting in Wardak Province, which began Thursday, were murky, but statements by various officials said that 16 to 30
members of the Afghan Local Police a militia controlled by the Interior Ministry who are from Hazara ethnic had been killed, along with at least two civilians. “Some of the dead were decapitated or burned and blinded”. Officials said.
President Ghani who formed a power-sharing government with his election rival, in a statement said “the desecration” of the bodies was a “war crime.”
The ugly turn in the war comes as Afghanistan’s struggling coalition government remains without a minister of defense 10 months after taking office. President Ashraf Ghani’s third nomination (Masoom Stanakzai) for the post was rejected by Parliament on Saturday.
“The fighting was taking place in the province’s Jalrez district, which lies on a strategically important highway connecting Kabul, the capital, to the central province of Bamian. The highway was closed Saturday”. Said Masood Shneezai, deputy chief of Wardak’s provincial council.
Shneezai added: “Taliban had overrun about 11 security checkpoints since the battle began”. Security officials said hundreds of supporting forces, who reached the area on Friday and Saturday, had taken back at least seven of the checkpoints and secured the government buildings in central Jalrez.
“The Afghan Local Police members fought the insurgents until their last breath, and when the ammunition finished they were killed by the Taliban,” said one local security official on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. More than 400 Taliban fighters were involved in the onslaught, the official said. Two police vehicles were blown up, and the insurgents took two others.
Some senior officials in Kabul, including Vice President Sarwar Danish, criticized the security forces’ response to the assault, underscoring the dysfunctional nature of Afghanistan’s power-sharing government as it struggles to push back an intense Taliban offensive across the country.
Mr. Danish, who called the Taliban assault a “brutal and unacceptable tragedy”, accused officials in Wardak of “negligence and delay”.
Hajji Mohammad Mohaqeq, the deputy chief executive of the coalition government, said that 22 security personnel had been killed and “their bodies chopped up to pieces and burned after their martyrdom” while units of an Afghan police force headquartered nearby provided no support. He compared the episode to the mass killings of Hazaras that occurred in central Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001.
“The main problem is weak leadership of high rank officials. They are not deserved for their positions and not capable and the problem is more serious in security”. Said Ehsanollah Hekmat a member of this network.
Edited by Basir Seerat
Read more: New York Times