Report: Taliban Captures 150 Afghan Troops During Peace Talks

US, Taliban pause negotiations in Doha following 'solid' talks
AFP/WAKIL KOHSAR

The Afghanistan government on Monday contested reports claiming that the Taliban captured a record 150 American trained and supplied Afghan border police officers and confiscated their U.S.-supplied weapons and military equipment after they surrendered over the weekend when the narco-jihadis chased them into neighboring Turkmenistan following ongoing battles in Badghis province.

There are conflicting reports from Kabul, the Taliban, and the New York Times (NYT) as to how many members of the Afghan border police — a component of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) —were captured by the terrorist group as part of fight in Badghis, which has been raging for nearly two weeks.

Farid Akhezi, a member of the provincial council in Badghis, confirmed to NYT “the surrender of 150 border force soldiers on Saturday.”

NYT reports that 50 Afghan border troops surrendered at the base in Badghis province’s Bala Murghab on Saturday and another 100 fled to neighboring Turkmenistan where they were handed over to the terrorist group on Sunday.

The recent incident raised the number of Afghan border troops captured by the Taliban in Badghis to 190, the Times notes.

Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, a military analyst and retired general, told the Times, “I have not seen or heard of such a big loss in the Afghan Army in recent years. If these numbers are true, then it’s the biggest capture by the Taliban at one time and in the same area. This is a very sad incident.”

However, TOLO News quotes a statement from the Afghan ministry of defense on Monday saying that Taliban only captured 58 members of the Afghan border police after they fled into Turkmenistan, noting that another 58 returned to Afghanistan Monday.

The Afghan defense ministry argues that the two-day battle over the weekend in the Badghis forced over 100 members of the border police to flee into Turkmenistan, of which 58 returned home on Monday.

“They migrated to Turkmenistan alongside their families. They stayed in Turkmenistan for two days, but some of them had surrendered to the Taliban. We do not have any information about their fate,” Wali Shah Nayeb, an Afghan lawmaker, told TOLO.

“Search operations will continue,” the statement declared.

“From among 150 security force members, some of them surrendered to the Taliban due to the compulsion and some other were forced to flee,” Abdul Aziz Bek, a member of Badghis Provincial Council, told TOLO. NYT suggests the Taliban caught up with the Afghan troops who fled.

“We are in a war situation. A war situation has its own words. It is true that one or two of our personnel are in the hand of the enemy, but we also have some of the enemies with us as hostages,” Noorullah Qaderi, an Afghan commander, added.

While the Taliban has killed an estimated 20 Afghan soldiers in Bala Murghab, the Afghan airstrikes have fatally targeted at least 50 Taliban fighters.

Meanwhile, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, wrote on Twitter that the terrorist group had only arrested 72 Afghan soldiers and police officers in the fighting in Badghis, noting that the jihadis had killed many others.

The Taliban spokesman boasted about the weapons confiscated from the U.S.-trained and supplied Afghan troops.

NYT accuses the Afghan government of downplaying the capture of the members of the Afghan border police, adding that the Bala Murghab district in Badghis is now almost entirely under Taliban control.

“The situation is very bad: The district is on the verge of collapse,” Saleh Mohammad Mubarez, commander of the Afghan police in the district, told the Times. “The reinforcements have not been enough. The air force must help and launch airstrikes.”

“The air force is ready to strike but the Taliban use civilians’ homes as shelters, so the air force cannot launch strikes,” Jamshid Shahabi, the spokesman for the Badghis governor, added.

NYT points out:

The latest capture was perhaps the biggest setback for the Afghan security forces since a Taliban offensive in August in the southeastern city of Ghazni killed as many as 200 soldiers and police officers, but few prisoners were taken then. The biggest recent capture of soldiers by the Taliban was about 50 who surrendered after a siege of their base, known as Chinese Camp, in Faryab Province, also in August.

Through various reports on its websites, the Taliban claims about 116 Afghan police officers were either captured or surrendered in Badghis over the last two weeks, not 190 as reported by the NYT.

The battle in Badghis comes amid intensified peace-seeking efforts by the United States to end the war in Afghanistan.

U.S. troops have vowed to keep the pressure on the group, launching a historic number of airstrikes that have failed to keep the Taliban from conquering more land.

Taliban jihadis have reportedly stepped up their offensive operations, killing a record number of Afghan civilian and ANDSF troops, which include police and military units.

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