The Taliban has once again targeted members of the Afghan security forces while they collected their pay, killing at least seven people, including two women and a child, and injuring more than 40 others, mostly civilians, in the jihadist group’s stronghold of Helmand province, located along the Pakistan border in southern Afghanistan.
“In the past, the slave enemy received their pay from banks but after several attacks they began taking their pay inside the headquarters that we have now attacked,” Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a local Taliban spokesman, told Reuters.
In June, a Taliban car bombing reportedly killed at least 34 people and wounded 60 others as they collected their salary at a bank in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand.
Wednesday’s attack, which also took place in Lashkar Gah, came only days after U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his new strategy for Afghanistan, which he vowed will “seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.”
Trump’s plan is expected to extend the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, empower his generals and troops by lifting restrictions on rules of engagement, and pressure neighboring Pakistan to stop sponsoring Islamic terrorism.
In response, the Taliban indicated it was “happy” to continue the Afghan war, which started in October 2001.
“We know how to defend our motherland,” a Taliban commander told NBC News on condition of anonymity. “If we could fight this war for 16 years with limited resources against the world’s well-equipped armies, we are happy to continue this fight against the enemy.”
This year, the United States deployed about 300 Marines to assist the struggling ANDSF, which includes military and police units, in their fight against the Taliban in Helmand, one of the deadliest provinces of the 16-year-old Afghan war for U.S. troops and their allies.
“The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” said Trump when announcing his Afghan strategy. “They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.”
The Associated Press (AP) learned from Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the Helmand provincial governor, that the Taliban car bomb attack wounded 42 people, mainly civilians.
Meanwhile, Zwak told Reuters that Wednesday’s explosion killed seven people.
“Two women, two soldiers, and a child were killed in the blast,” Reuters learned from an unnamed doctor at a nearby hospital.
The ANDSF has borne the brunt of terrorist attacks by jihadist groups in Afghanistan and has suffered a record number of casualties, primarily at the hands of the Taliban, the strongest terrorist organization in the war-devastated country.
“Afghan losses have been the greatest of all: more than twice as many ANDSF members were killed in the single year of 2016 than U.S. forces in Afghanistan have lost since 2001,” revealed the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency.
SIGAR noted that terrorists had killed at least 6,785 Afghan soldiers and police in the first ten months of 2016.
Security conditions have deteriorated in Afghanistan since former President Barack Obama declared the U.S. combat mission over at the end of 2014, withdrawing most American troops.
The Taliban controls or contests about 40 percent of Afghanistan, the watchdog agency reported at the end of July.
In Helmand alone, the jihadist group controls or influences nine (64 percent) of the 14 districts.
Helmand is the Afghan province that produces the most opium, the primary source of funding for the Taliban. Afghanistan is the world’s top supplier of opium and its heroin derivative, an illicit business that generated nearly $3 billion in 2016 alone, representing 16 percent of the country’s GDP.
The Afghan border with Pakistan is home to a significant portion of the territory controlled by the Taliban.
During his war strategy speech, President Trump urged Pakistan to stop supporting terrorists fighting and killing Americans in Afghanistan.
United Nations data revealed in 2015 that the Taliban controlled more territory at that time than during any other time since the United States removed it from power in 2001.