Kabul—The Taliban took control of a large police base in a remote part of northeastern Afghanistan after some 100 police and border guards joined the insurgents following three days of fighting, security officials said Sunday.
The loss of the Tirgaran base in Badakhshan province marked the largest mass surrender since US and NATO forces concluded their combat mission at the end of last year. It highlighted the challenges facing Afghan security forces, which have seen their casualties soar in the face of stepped-up insurgent attacks.
The police base, in the province’s Wardoj district, had been cut off as heavy rains destroyed roads into the area, said Gen. Baba Jan, Badakhshan province’s police chief. It wasn’t clear why reinforcements hadn’t been flown into the area, though the province’s steep valleys often make aircraft landings difficult.
“No reinforcements were sent to help the police at the base for the past three days when they were under the attack and finally they had no option: They had to join the Taliban,” said Abdullah Naji Nazari, the head of Badakhshan’s provincial council.
Jan said the local police commander also joined the Taliban and handed over the base’s weapons and ammunition.
The Taliban issued a statement saying they captured the base along with 110 police officers, their local commander and the head of the local border police. It did not say whether the captives joined their ranks.
Last month hundreds of insurgents attacked security checkpoints in the province’s Yamgan district, forcing police to abandon them.
In northern Baghlan province, 11 people were kidnapped Saturday after gunmen stopped their vehicle in Dahna-i Ghori district, said Gen. Abdul Jabar Perdili, the provincial police chief. Perdili said the vehicle held 18 passengers, all Shia Hazaras. Four women and one man were freed, and authorities were still negotiating the release of the others, he said.
The loss of the Tirgaran base in once-peaceful Badakhshan province shows the challenge facing Afghan forces, in charge of the country’s security since the start of this year. Remote bases and checkpoints increasingly find themselves targeted by the Taliban and other fighters as casualty rates for Afghan police and soldiers soar.