Air Force A-10 Warthogs were called in over Farah city, Afghanistan, Tuesday, in an attempt to prevent the city’s fall to Taliban forces during the first major assault against a provincial capital since the Taliban began their annual fighting season.
Resolute Support officials said the attack was repelled throughout Wednesday, and the insurgents were forced back into the rural areas surrounding the city.
The A-10s conducted shows-of-force, while MQ-9 Reapers struck multiple targets. Afghan A-29 light-attack aircraft and Mi-17 helicopters “conducted the majority of strikes,” Army Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a U.S. forces in Afghanistan spokesman, told Military Times.
O’Donnell could not say whether or not U.S. forces were on the ground coordinating the airstrikes.
Although the Air Force’s dedicated close-air support platform was dispatched, the city remained under government control throughout the assault, officials with NATO’s Resolute Support mission said in their statement Tuesday morning. Resolute Support later posted pictures of the Afghan forces patrolling a subdued Farah city.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack over social media. He said Taliban fighters had breached Farah and were conducting clearing operations on Tuesday, before they were repelled. Mujahid said they had achieved their objectives and were withdrawing voluntarily after achieving their objectives.
U.S. officials told a different story regarding the city’s situation.
“As the Ministry of Defense has already stated, the Afghan security forces are bringing their full capabilities, consisting of Army, Police, Commandos and Air Force, to bear on the situation,” U.S. officials said in their Tuesday statement. “As we have seen over the last couple of days, the Taliban are unable to hold terrain during such isolated attacks, and their unsuccessful raid attempts on district centers in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Faryab and Zabul.”
Farah is a large city in the western Afghan province of the same name. Farah province shares a border with the opium-rich Helmand province, where the Taliban are also active, as well as the country of Iran.
The Taliban’s assault began just after midnight, when security checkpoints were overrun from multiple directions and militants managed to take an intelligence headquarters, according to the Taliban’s propaganda arm.
Some pictures of burning Humvees and abandoned security towers confirmed the success of the attacks on the outskirts of the city, but not necessarily the deep penetration into the city center that the Taliban purported to have achieved.
The situation around Farah province has been deteriorating for months, as noted by the Long War Journal. A new governor of the province was appointed in January after his predecessor resigned over security issues, which included multiple battles between Afghan government forces and Taliban insurgents, as well as requests from local officials for additional reinforcements from the Kabul-based central government.
“The situation is not concerning, and with the arrival of Commando forces, they [the Taliban] will be defeated, Inshallah [God willing],” Farah province Governor Basir Salangi told TOLONews, an Afghan television news channel, on Tuesday.
Despite Salangi’s optimism, the New York Times reported that he had fled the capital during the assualt, but remained in the province.
The U.S. and Afghan governments have been urging the Taliban to enter into peace talks, but those efforts were rebuffed when the insurgent force announced the beginning of a new fighting season in late April.
NATO’s combat operations in Afghanistan ended in 2014, but a contingent of troops remain in the country as part of the coalition’s non-combat Resolute Support mission to train and advise Afghan forces. U.S. forces in Afghanistan, however, have been engaging in kinetic operations.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.