GARDEZ (PAN): An Afghan military commander on Monday claimed a group of Pakistani Taliban tasked with carrying out attacks in central Logar province had been eliminated.
The Afghan National Army’s 203rd Thunder Military Corps commander, Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, told local and foreign journalists the group had been sent to Logar by the Pakistani Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud.
He alleged the Afghan Taliban had established three leadership councils (Shuras) in Quetta, Peshawar and Miranshah. The Pakistan-based councils planned attacks in Afghanistan, the general said.
He added Mehsud had sent a group called Karwan-i-Haqiqat (convoy of truth) for fomenting insecurity in Logar, bordering Kabul, but the outfit had been eliminated.
The general said Afghan forces had improved with regard to combat ability, equipment and training and had the potential to thwart enemy designs.
About last month’s clearing operations in Paktika and the Azra district of Logar, Gen. Yaftali said the Afghan-led offensive was one of the largest counterinsurgency actions.
He said the operation had three targets and all of them had been achieved. “It was aimed at assessing Afghan forces’ skills, clearing areas near Kabul of miscreants and paving the way for supplies to Azra district.”
However, Azra residents say the Taliban have staged a quick comeback and closed again the roads leading to the town after security forces left.
Gen. Yaftali said Taliban bases in the Khoshi district of Logar had been destroyed during a recent operation codenamed Oqab (Eagle). The rebels would plan attacks on Kabul at their hideouts, he claimed.
He said 3000 203rd Thunder Military Crops personnel were part of the cleanup operation, making it the largest one. For the first time, Afghan forces used ME-17 and M-35 helicopters during the offensive, he added.
The Afghan troops had gained much experience from the operation in Azra, where they had local support, he insisted. “Residents welcomed our national forces by showering rose petals on them.”
In addition to the fighting, he said the Afghan forces conveyed the government’s message to people and launched and secured reconstruction projects.
In the Azra operation, the general said the national army’s engineering section also took part for the first time, defusing landmines and repairing roads and bridges.
Calling roadside bombs the most dangerous weapon used by the enemy, he said the devices were made outside of Afghanistan and smuggled into the country.
“There is no factory making landmines in Afghanistan. These bombs are brought in with the help of foreign intelligence agencies,” Gen. Yaftali said, without naming anyone.
He said the armed opposition had been defeated and had no courage to enter a face-to-face engagement with Afghan forces.
He said 1,500 rebels were killed, wounded and detained over the past five months in the zone including Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Logar, Ghazni, Maidan Wardak and Bamyan provinces.
The military commander claimed the Taliban were weakening day by day, losing local support and increasingly confronting economic woes.