Anatomy of a Taliban Ambush
In a recently released propaganda video, the Taliban provided extensive footage of an ambush on an Afghan logistics convoy in the eastern province of Wardak. The daylight ambush destroyed multiple Afghan vehicles, and despite the fact that US helicopters were nearby, the Taliban do not appear to have been targeted during the fighting.
The video, which is titled ‘Caravan of Heroes 13’ and was published on August 28, was produced by Manba al Jihad Studio, the media arm of the Haqqani Network, the Taliban subgroup that is closely linked to al Qaeda. Manba al Jihad Studio is “an official media wing of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Commission for Cultural Affairs Audio and Visual Sector,” according to the accompanying statement announcing the release of the video.
The video opens with a lengthy discussion of ambush tactics between two masked Taliban fighters, one who is wearing a black tee-shirt with the words “Quick Attack Force – Special Forces” and a Taliban logo printed on the front.
The video then cuts to footage of an ambush that targeted an Afghan military logistics convoy on a road in Sayyadabad district in Wardak province. The date of the attack was not given, however it appears to have taken place in the late spring or summer months. Sayyadabad was the district where Taliban fighters shot down a US Chinook helicopter in Aug. 2011 and killed 31 US and seven Afghan special operations forces, including several members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, which is more commonly referred to as SEAL Team 6. FDD’s Long War Journal has assessed Sayyadabad as Taliban-controlled, and the video demonstrates why.
Dozens of Taliban fighters assemble near the village in broad daylight. The village is clearly Taliban controlled, and the group has ambushed military convoys in this very same spot in the past. As the Taliban fighters take up their ambush positions along a length of the road, the remains of what appears to be an oil tanker sits on the shoulder.
Before the ambush begins, the Taliban fighter who was recording the attack captures two US Blackhawk helicopters on video as they are flying over the convoy. The Taliban fighters, who are gathering in the open, are undeterred by the Blackhawks, and launch their ambush shortly afterward. At one point during the fighting, what appears to be a military attack aircraft is captured on film, but it does not open fire on the ambush team.
The Taliban ambush, while not very sophisticated, was effective. The fighters open fire on the convoy with machine guns and assault rifles from multiple positions. It does not appear that IEDs, RPGs, recoilless rifles or other heavy weapons were used to target the convoy. Although the Taliban was firing from locations that included buildings, the fighters did not appear to take advantage of rooftops and instead fired from ground level.
Yet the Taliban was able to successfully destroy multiple vehicles in the attack. First, the fighters hit a fuel tanker, then several military vehicles were hit. As the segment ends, multiple vehicles are ablaze along the a stretch of the road. At the end of the scene, the Taliban fighters casually walk away.
The video highlights a major problem that Afghan and Coalition forces face throughout the country: the Taliban has demonstrated that it can take the fight to Afghan forces with little fear of being targeted by air assets. The Taliban is often able to overrun military bases and district centers, and loiter in the area for nearly a day without taking fire. [See Analysis: Coalition and Afghan forces must target Taliban after overrunning bases.]
Screen shots from the ambush in Wardak
Taliban fighters move to their ambush position:
The wreck of a previously destroyed tanker is seen on the same road the ambush took place:
One of two US Blackhawk helicopters that were flying over the convoy just before the ambush:
Taliban fighters survey the road:
A tanker is hit:
An Afghan military vehicle is hit:
Two vehicles are burning:
Taliban fighters engage the convoy from a field:
Multiple vehicles are aflame:
Taliban fighters walk away from the ambush: