Taliban suicide team strikes NDS headquarters in Afghan city

The Taliban has claimed credit for today’s suicide assault in the provincial capital of Samangan in northern Afghanistan. The attack belies U.S. officials’ claims that the Taliban has not been fighting in Afghanistan’s cities.

Afghan officials said that 10 people were killed and more than 50 were wounded after a Taliban suicide bomb detonated an explosive-packed vehicle outside of the headquarters of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in the city of Abyak, TOLONews reported. A team of three Taliban fighters then entered the NDS compound and battled Afghan forces before being killed.

The Taliban claimed credit for the assault on the NDS headquarters, and stated that “three heroes from the Martyrdom Battalion” carried it out, according to a statement that was released on Voice of Jihad. It called the target of the operation the “satanic intelligence nest in Samangan province.”

The Taliban celebrated its “martyrdom seeking” units in a video that was released in early June. Also, in mid-June, the Taliban called the Afghan government and those who support it “deviants … who are trained in the poisonous deviant beliefs of atheism, communism, secularism, democracy, and other satanic western and disbelieving ideologies in order to mislead the Muslims with their deviant ideologies.”

In today’s statement, the Taliban said that it was “implementing justice on murderous criminals.” It also described those who were killed and wounded as “Kabul administration remnants and those obstructing establishment [sic] of an Islamic government.”

The Taliban has been very clear both before and after the signing of the agreement that facilitates the withdrawal of U.S. troops that it will not directly negotiate with the Afghan government. The Taliban has described the Afghan government as “illegitimate,” “impotent,” “un-Islamic,” “satanic,” “deviants,” and a “puppet” of the United States. It has stated that the only acceptable outcome for Afghanistan is the establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with its emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, as the rightful leader.

Afghan officials, including President Arshaf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, which is tasked with negotiating with the Taliban, condemned today’s attack. The two leaders continue to push for talks with the Taliban and have released more than 4,000 Taliban prisoners, despite the fact that the Taliban has nearly doubled the number of attacks against the Afghan government and security forces, and refuses to recognize its legitimacy.

Today’s assault in Samangan also undercuts U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent claim that the Taliban is not conducting major attacks or suicide bombings in Afghanistan’s cities, regardless of the fact that the Taliban has claimed credit for such operations. General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, recently made a similar claim, and instead said the Islamic State was responsible for operations in the cities.