Center for Strategic Communication

The Taliban launched a complex suicide assault against the headquarters for the Afghan National Directorate of Security in the southeastern province of Ghazni today. The suicide assault is the second against the NDS by the Taliban in the past six days.

The attack began outside the NDS headquarters in Ghazni City this morning as the Taliban detonated two massive truck bombs. Taliban fighters then entered the compound through the breach created by the blast and fought with Afghan security personnel.

According to Pajhwok Afghan News, 14 security personnel and 19 heavily armed Taliban fighters were killed and another 154 people were wounded during the coordinated attack. TOLONews reported that two of the Taliban fighters were killed while detonating the truck bombs, 16 were killed during the fighting, which lasted for nearly three hours, and one Taliban fighter was captured.

The Taliban claimed credit for the attack at Voice of Jihad, the official website of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

“Early Thursday morning the martyr unit of the Islamic Emirate stormed the headquarters of so-called National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the compound of the rapid reaction forces in Ghazni city, the capital of the province with same name, launching attacks in which above [sic] 50 agents of NDS and rapid reaction forces as well as security forces were reported dead or wounded,” the statement says.

The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using one or more suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic frequently used by the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and its branches as well as allied groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Shabaab, and by the rival Islamic State. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.

Today’s suicide assault in Ghazni is the second by the Taliban that targeted an NDS headquarters in six days. On Aug. 30, a suicide assault team struck the NDS headquarters in Jalalabad.

In their announcement of this year’s spring offensive, known as the Battle of Khaibar (Khyber), the Taliban had promised to target the NDS .

“Similarly the blessed ‘Khaibar’ Jihadi spring operations shall target all high ranking government officials, cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, security officials, occupation backing officers in the Interior and Foreign Ministries, attorneys and judges that prosecute Mujahideen as well as agents in the National Directorate [Afghan intelligence] that pursue and torture Mujahideen,” the Taliban said in a statement announcing the 2014 offensive.

The Taliban have launched several high-profile attacks in Ghazni over the past year. On Aug. 28, a suicide assault team attacked the Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Ghazni. Four Afghan civilians, three police officers, a Polish soldier, and 10 Taliban fighters were killed, and 10 Polish soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Ghazni is a known jihadist hub

Ghazni is a known Taliban and al Qaeda hub in the southeast. Senior Taliban, al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan commanders are known to operate in the province.

In September 2012, the governor of Ghazni said the Taliban were bringing “foreign militants” into the province, and the deputy chief of the Ghazni provincial council said that a large number of Pakistanis are fighting in Ghazni. Additionally, a US military commander who operated in the southeastern province in 2011 said that foreign trainers, including Arabs, Chechens, and Pakistanis, operate in Ghazni while Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate is sabotaging Coalition efforts in the province.

Al Qaeda often embeds military trainers within Taliban groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These trainers, who are part of the Lashkar-al-Zil, or Shadow Army, provide instructions for battling security forces in local insurgencies and furnish knowledge, expertise, funding, and resources for conducting local and international attacks. The US Treasury Department officially acknowledged the existence of this unit when it added one such Pakistan-based trainer and commander of al Qaeda’s “paramilitary brigades” to the list of global terrorists in June. [For more information on this unit, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army,’ from February 2009.]

Over the past several years, a number of al Qaeda leaders and operatives have been killed or captured in Ghazni. Aafia Siddiqui, an American-educated Pakistani scientist who has been dubbed “Lady al Qaeda” by the press, was captured in Ghazni in 2008. At least six other al Qaeda operatives have been captured, and another has been killed, in the province. [See LWJ report, ISAF targets al Qaeda-linked Taliban operative in Afghan southeast.]

Six months prior to his death, Osama bin Laden, the founder and former emir of al Qaeda, issued instructions to his chief of staff, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, to relocate “hundreds” of commanders and fighters from North Waziristan to Kunar, Nuristan, Ghazni, and Zabul provinces in Afghanistan to avoid targeting by US drone strikes. Bin Laden’s letter to Atiyah was dated Oct. 21, 2010. [See LWJ report, Bin Laden advised relocation of some leaders to Afghanistan due to drone strikes in Waziristan.]

It is unclear if bin Laden’s instructions were followed, but several al Qaeda leaders and operatives were killed, captured, and targeted in those four provinces after the letter was written.

For more information on foreign fighters operating in Ghazni, see LWJ report, ‘Foreign militants’ still present in Ghazni.