At least 46 Afghan police officers, including a senior general, were killed in two separate Taliban attacks on Tuesday, officials said, highlighting the heavy cost paid by the country’s police force amid the Afghan war’s escalating violence.
The attacks, in the neighboring southeastern provinces of Paktia and Ghazni, were similar in the tactics used — and in the devastation left behind. Both involved insurgents taking vehicles captured from Afghan forces, including Humvees paid for by the United States military, packing them with explosives and detonating them at the compounds before the militants stormed in.
Afghan and Western officials have long expressed concern about the high number of casualties among Afghan forces against a resurgent Taliban, even after the United States doubled its air support under a new strategy by President Trump. The Afghan government has not disclosed how many police officers and soldiers have been killed this year, but officials say the deaths rate is the same or higher than in 2016, when more than 6,700 members of the security forces were killed and another 12,000 were wounded.
A total of at least 71 people were killed in the two attacks on Tuesday.
The deadlier of the attacks occurred in Gardez City, the capital of Pakita Province, leaving 41 people dead and more than 150 wounded. Gen. Murad Ali Murad, Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister, said that 21 police officers had been killed in the attack, including the province’s police chief, Gen. Toryalai Abdyani, and 48 others wounded. Twenty civilians were killed and another 110 wounded, he said.
It was the second time the compound had been attacked in a similar fashion this year. The last attack, in June, left five police officers dead and 18 wounded.
Gen. Assadullah Shirzad, the head of police in the southeastern zone, said the insurgents had first blown up a large truck outside the police headquarters, destroying the walls. Then three other vehicles used as bombs — two police pickup trucks and one Humvee — entered the compound and were blown up. Eleven militants stormed the compound after the explosions, he said.
The casualty toll changed throughout the day, and some Afghan officials feared that it could rise further. “The casualties get higher and higher,” said Hedayatullah Hamidi, the province’s health director. “It is not the final list.”
Habibullah Sarab, 16, who lives nearby, said he had rushed to the site after hearing a large explosion that shattered the windows of his home.
“I saw dozens of people lying on the ground under debris of the explosion,” he said. Most, he said, were civilians who had been waiting outside the police headquarters to get new passports.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Mujib Mashal and Fatima Faizi