The Taliban celebrated the conclusion of a three-day ceasefire with Afghanistan's security forces on Wednesday by launching a brutal attack against an Afghan military base in the western part of the country, killing 30 soldiers and occupying the installation, officials told Reuters.
Provincial governor Abdul Aziz Bek told Reuters that "large numbers" of Taliban fighters approached the base "from several different directions," using attacks on Afghan soldiers at disparate security checkpoints across the province in order to sow confusion among government forces during the hours-long firefight.
The ceasefire, traditionally instituted for the annual Eid celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, was extended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for an additional 10 days amid an offer to initiate peace talks to finally bring an end to the 17-year-old conflict — a proposal that U.S. Forces Afghanistan supported but Taliban leaders rejected.
“We support President Ghani’s offer to extend the cease-fire and begin peace talks," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement from Operation Resolute Support on June 16. "As President Ghani emphasized in his statement to the Afghan people, peace talks by necessity would include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces. The United States is prepared to support, facilitate and participate in these discussions.”
Wednesday's attack appears to be one of the most demoralizing Taliban victories over Afghan security forces since the group's so-called "Red Unit," decked out in U.S. military gear, massacred scores of soldiers in Kandahar Province back in November, sending waves of anxiety through military circles. (The U.S. took out the commander of the Taliban Red Unit with a drone strike less than a month later.)
According to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Afghan government controlled some 229 districts (56%) across Afghanistan, with 59 (14%) controlled by the Taliban and 119 (29%) contested.
Now, it looks like the Taliban may be able to move another district into its column; why would they even bother with suing for peace?
President Donald Trump hit back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday with a letter saying he was "sorry to inform" her that her trip to Brussels, Belgium and Afghanistan would be canceled due to the government shutdown, just one day after Pelosi proposed cancelling the State of the Union address for similar reasons.
Marine Corps drill instructor R. Lee Ermey in his iconic role in 'Full Metal Jacket' (Warner Bros.)
Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey, the legendary Marine drill instructor turned iconic Full Metal Jacket actor who died last year, will be formally laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at 10 a.m. on Jan. 18, according to the cemetery's web site.