Afghan commandos rescue 15 people from Taliban prison

By Ryan Browne, CNN

(CNN) -- Fifteen people were freed from a Taliban prison in the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand on Sunday, the international coalition said in a statement.

Afghan and coalition forces conducted the nighttime raid in Now Zad village, said US Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, a spokesman for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, Resolute Support.

Coalition forces accompanied Afghan commandos on the raid, which led to the capture of several Taliban members and the removal of bomb-making materials.

"The rescued Afghans were transported by helicopter to a secure location. They received medical screening and reintegration services before their release," Resolute Support said in a statement Sunday.

The rescue was a welcome development after a string of recent deadly attacks in war-weary Afghanistan. Gunmen stormed a television station in Kabul earlier this month, killing a guard and injuring five others in a siege that left the attackers dead. In October, suicide attackers in Afghanistan killed nearly 60 people at two mosques and 15 people were killed in an attack near a military academy.

Coalition officials have in the past cited the success of the Afghan commandos as validation of NATO's effort to build up Afghan security forces. NATO plans to increase the size of its mission in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 16,000 with the addition of more troops from non-US members. With additional advisers, NATO hopes to help Afghanistan increase the number of Afghan commandos. The elite units have been tasked with conducting the majority of offensive operations against the Taliban and the local ISIS affiliate.

These reinforcements will join approximately 3,000 additional US troops who were ordered to Afghanistan as part of President Trump's new strategy for Afghanistan and the wider region. Those US troops will support the NATO mission and a US counterterrorism mission. The US has about 14,000 troops in the country alongside approximately 6,000 from other nations.

US commanders are looking for allies to provide troops to help train Afghans in their officer academies and military specialization schools. Help from allies would free US troops to advise Afghan soldiers at the brigade and battalion levels by providing support and calling in airstrikes to assist Afghan forces on the front line.

President Trump's Afghanistan policy calls on Pakistan to increase its efforts to eliminate Taliban sanctuaries within its borders. Earlier this month, the commander of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan said the administration is enlisting the international community to help encourage Pakistan to crack down on the Afghan Taliban via a series of incentives and disincentives.


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