KUNDUZ, Afghanistan: Taliban insurgents seized a police base in northern Afghanistan after more than 100 policemen surrendered, inflicting one of the heaviest blows to Afghan forces since the NATO combat mission ended in December.
The mass surrender in Badakhshan province occurred on Saturday evening, highlighting the challenges confronting Afghan security forces, who are facing their first fighting season without full NATO support.
“More than 100 policemen at the base fought for three days and had enough arms and munitions to continue fighting for three months,” Badakhshan Police chief General Baba Jan told AFP.
“But they surrendered after a deal with the Taliban. All the ammunition and equipment was seized by the insurgents.”
The deputy provincial governor Gul Mohammad Bedar said surrendering the base in the volatile district of Warduj marked “a big act of treason” that would be investigated by authorities.
The insurgents briefly detained the policemen before setting them free, with some of the officers openly accusing their commander of “betraying” them by striking a deal with the Taliban, Baba Jan said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the “policemen were released on the condition that they will not rejoin the Kabul government.”
The development lays bare the problem of mixed loyalties of some local forces, which are stretched on multiple fronts as the insurgents step up attacks despite a nascent peace process.
US-led NATO forces ended their combat mission in Afghanistan in December, leaving local forces to battle the Taliban alone, but a 13,000-strong residual force remains for training and counter-terrorism operations.