The Taliban made a show of force across a province of northeastern Afghanistan on Friday, Afghan officials said, attacking dozens of government installations but causing relatively few deaths or injuries.
The insurgent forces struck at least six districts of Kunar Province, attacking district governors’ offices, police and army outposts, and other government buildings.
“Our security forces defended their people with bravery,” said Fazlullah Wahidi, the provincial governor. “The enemy wanted to kill a lot of innocent people but they failed to achieve their goal, and the casualties were very low.”
Reports of casualties varied slightly, but local officials counted no more than four dead. Among them were an Afghan soldier who was home on leave, a woman and a 7- or 8-year-old girl who was killed when a mortar hit her house in the provincial capital of Asadabad.
The International Security Assistance Force’s regional command for eastern Afghanistan said that the bodies of eight Taliban were found after intense firefights with Afghan forces.
The attacks began around 1 a.m. and lasted until 8 a.m., local officials said, suggesting that the Taliban sought to limit civilian casualties in an effort to avoid alienating potential supporters among the local population.
Using Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, the insurgents razed the governor’s office in Dangam, where more Taliban were involved in the attack than in other districts, according to a security official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to be identified. He said that as some police officers struggled to put out the fires, others fought the insurgents, and that only support from the neighboring Asmar district prevented the compound from being overrun.
By contrast, in Marawara District where the Afghan Army was able to pre-empt much of the attack because of advance intelligence, the troops “were already ready” when the attack started, Lt. Col. Rhamdil, the second Kandak commander for the Second Brigade of the 201st Afghan National Army, said in a statement.
The Taliban tactics seemed aimed at creating as wide an impact as possible without engaging in direct battles with the Afghan security forces.
“Taliban know that they do not have the ability to fight our forces face-to-face or capture a district by carrying out such attacks,” said Aiwaz Mohammed Nazari, the Kunar police chief. “They want to show that they have a presence in the area and that they are able to carry out coordinated attacks every now and then.”
A Taliban statement appeared to make the same point: “Today’s attacks, which have caused panic among the enemy ranks, are the biggest attacks of their kind and shows the strength and abilities of mujahedeen.”
Also in eastern Afghanistan, a bomb exploded in a mosque in the Chapahar district of Nangarhar Province, injuring 12.
NYT: By Alissa J. Rubin, an employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Kunar Province, Afghanistan.