On August 26th, an airstrike was carried out in Darqad district in Afghanistan’s Takhar province. According to local officials the attack was performed by either Russian or Tajik “fighter jets.”
According to Reuters, the airstrike happened during a clash between gunmen and Tajik border guards, and six of the gunmen were killed after they killed two of the guards. Reuters cited two Afghan government officials who have confirmed the airstrike. Khalil Asir, a spokesman for Takhar provincial police, said it was not clear if it was a Russian or Tajik aircraft that conducted the bombing. He said that eight Taliban were killed, six were wounded.
Reuters also cited Jawed Hejri, spokesman for Takhar provincial governor who also said it was not clear where the aircraft came from. According to him, six of the killed were drug smugglers, however their identities are not known.
Tolo News quoted Hejri as saying that the targeted area is outside of government’s control and is under Taliban control.
Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, confirmed the clash, however he said that it happened between drug smugglers and the Tajik border guards. The jets bombarded a forested area used by smugglers. “We are investigating this as Taliban fighters have no permission to clash with neighbor countries,” he said, cited by Reuters.
On August 27th, the Russian Defense Ministry, cited by TASS, said that the reports of Russian fighter jets assaulting Taliban forces have nothing to do with reality. “Reports by Reuters Russian planes have allegedly attacked militants of the Islamic movement Taliban) in a northeastern border region of Afghanistan have nothing to do with the reality. Russian military planes have carried out no combat missions in the area of the state border between the Republic of Tajikistan and Afghanistan,” the Defense Ministry said. As reported by TASS, the Taliban movement is outlawed in Russia.
On the same day, the Afghan police said that the planes remained unidentified, however that nine Taliban members were killed, in addition to six others killed as a result of the airstrike.
Russian Aircraft frequently patrols Tajikistan airspace; however, they deny any part in the incident. Tajikistan, as cited by TASS, also denies any involvement in the incident.
Some media observers suggested that the airstrike may have been carried by US-led forces and reports about Russian or Tajik jets striking the Taliban in Afghanistan are designed to undermine a possible peace process in the country, which is impossible without involvement of Russia and China, two major players influencing the region.
As reported by Tolo News, security in the Northeastern province that borders Tajikistan has deteriorated in recent months. There have been regular clashes between Afghan Security Forces and anti-government armed groups, including the Taliban.
On August 13th, it was reported that at least 12 border police officers were killed and five others were injured after a Taliban attack in the Takhar province. Khalil Asir, provincial police spokesman was quoted by Afghan Times, claiming that the Taliban suffered heavy casualties while being pushed back by the border police. The attack was confirmed by Zabihullah Mujahid who claimed that 18 police were killed and 10 more were wounded.