In the early morning hours of Feb. 23, at least 100 Taliban insurgents overran an Afghan army-base in the Ghaziabad district of Kunar province and killed a reported 21 Afghani soldiers in their sleep, with some contradiction in numbers of wounded and missing. Witnesses report the insurgents being let in by unknown collaborators around 4:00 a.m., after which the rebels killed and wounded soldiers in their bunk beds. A reported eight Afghan soldiers went missing, but later one turned up and was interviewed in Kunar province’s capital, Asadabad. The man said that four of the eight had colluded with the Taliban, letting the rebels onto the base. He said that the three other innocent soldiers had escaped like him. He would not give his name as he said he was unauthorized to speak with the media. Taliban leaders contradicted his statement, denying they had any infiltrators within the army.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai cancelled a trip to Sri Lanka upon hearing of the incident. Karzai is criticized by some in his own government for contradictions in his behaviour, as he is accused of showing Taliban sympathies by letting insurgents out of jail in mass numbers. The president has been requesting American aid in mediating peace talks with the Taliban, who he condemned for the killings in Kunar, which he pointed out came not long after a similar Pakistani incident in which Taliban fighters in Pakistan killed 23 members of Pakistan’s army. Afghanistan’s Kunar province is on the border with Pakistan, whose government said that the 23 soldiers from their army were taken across the border to Afghanistan before being killed. Border insurgents from each country take refuge on the other side.
According to both insurgents and Afghan government officials, Sunday’s killing of the 21 soldiers is one of the biggest blows to government forces in several years. However, there was an incident in September, 2013 that contradicts this statement, when 25 policemen were killed by the Taliban in Badakshan.
On a somewhat related note, a year ago in the Central African Republic Muslim rebels from the north of the country overthrew the then president who had been in power for a decade. They entered the country’s capital, and after deposing the president reportedly pillaged for months, killing citizens and raping women. In response to this a Christian militia arose, and after amassing enough numbers attempted a coup. There has been fighting ever since, with the Christian militia now behaving very much the way the Muslim group had previously, by unleashing violence on their fellow countrymen who are not of their religion. On Feb. 22 in Afghanistan, just the day before the violence on the Ghaziabad army base, the Taliban did something that can be seen as a contradiction to the following day’s attack by their own fighters against Afghan soldiers. In an almost unprecedented statement showing concern for an international situation not linked to their own national cause, the Taliban called for a cease to the violence and “merciless killings” of Muslims (in the Central African Republic). As with over 99 percent of Afghanistan’s citizens, the majority of Afghan police and soldiers are Muslim.
By Julie Mahfood