KABUL -- Afghan authorities suggested Monday that Taliban insurgents who overran an Afghan special forces post earlier this month in a raid that killed 13 Afghan troops had received support from neighboring Pakistan.
The daring April 12 assault in eastern Kunar province was part of a series of recent bloody attacks against the government’s security forces that appear aimed at undermining the morale of the Afghan army and police at a critical time when they are assuming responsibility for security throughout the country.
Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said the Taliban fighters who occupied the outpost near the Pakistan border on April 12 used artillery and better weaponry than in previous attacks in the area. He also said they were heard speaking Urdu, one of Pakistan’s primary languages. Most Taliban fighters speak Pashto, an Afghan language.
The Taliban launched the attack on the isolated post at 5 a.m, Azimi said during a regular press conference. Due to the mountainous terrain, it took between two and three hours for reinforcements to reach the base, by which time the defenders had been killed.
Azimi implied that the Taliban unit engaged in the attack must have had external support.
"There are elements from a foreign country. There are external and internal elements," he told reporters. Afghan officials often use such language to allude to Pakistani involvement in attacks.
The Afghan-Pakistani frontier has long been a hot-bed of the insurgency, with members of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban taking shelter and staging attacks from both sides of the border. Both countries frequently accuse the other of sheltering militants. President Hamid Karzai has denounced Pakistan for allegedly allowing the guerrillas to infiltrate into Afghanistan and attack government and international troops, leading to a deterioration in relations between the two countries.
Coalition spokesman Gen. Gunter Katz said the NATO force could not confirm that there had been any foreign involvement in the attack on the commando post. "We need the evidence, and once we have the evidence we will talk about it," he said.
Azimi said the attack in Kunar province should not be considered as a sign that the Afghan National Army isn’t capable of providing security after U.S. and NATO forces leave in 2014.
"[The soldiers] are fighting to their last drop of blood," he said. "They have the capability to give their life away to defend their country."
At the same press conference, Azimi reiterated a statement released by the National Security Council on Sunday condemning the construction of a Pakistani border gate in Goshta district. The Afghan government claims the gate, which is near the Durand Line which serves as the border between the two countries, is situated on Afghan soil.
In a written statement, the council also claimed that the U.S.-led NATO force helped Pakistan set up the gate.
Katz said NATO plans to negotiate with both Afghanistan and Pakistan about the border gate. He said the coalition hadn’t had time to examine the situation.
"That [National Security Council] statement came out 18 hours ago," he said. "Give us some time to be accurate."