Rise to Peace blog

Humvees: Taliban’s new VBIED

The Afghan Taliban has deployed a new weapon in its fight against the Afghan National Security Forces: explosive-laden Humvees. The trend started in late September when a Humvee was detonated outside Maroof district police headquarters in Kandahar and came to a violent head this week[1]. Attacks in Kandahar, Farah, and Balkh left 58 security officers dead and at least nine more wounded[2]. Two days prior, a Humvee bombing in Paktia killed 52[3]. The method is a cross between standard car bombs and the ISIS tactic vehicle ramming. Attackers drive the vehicle into their target and detonate it, sometimes following with an additional firearm assault. Thus far, the targets have always been police and military bases. The three most recent attacks of this variety were part of a larger wave of violence against police and government facilities that killed over 100 security forces across the country [4].

Humvees are large, off-road vehicles, a product of AM General, a defense contractor based in South Bend, Indiana[1]. The US government has often contracted them to manufacture Humvees, a term short for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police[2].

So how do these weapons wind up being used by the Taliban against these forces? The most likely explanation is that the vehicles are seized when the Taliban seizes the military bases housing them[7].  One Afghan military analyst, Mohammad Agul Mujahed, proposed that a so-called “fifth pillar,” a rumored sect of the saboteurs within the Afghan government was selling the Humvees to Taliban forces[8], but claims like these are controversial[9]. The US and NATO have also long had problems with supplies being stolen en route to their destinations in Afghanistan, but these instances of theft have always involved smaller items like boots, army uniforms, and night vision goggles, nothing even approaching the size of a Humvee[10].

Taliban used two Humvees and one Ford Ranger (military Vehicles) to conduct a deadly attack on October 17 killing Paktia Police chief and 43 other Afghan soldiers.

Whatever the source, Taliban Humvees represent a new development in a worrying trend of ANSF equipment falling into enemy hands. Terrorist groups like ISIS[11] and Jaish-e-Mohammad[12] have dressed in stolen security force uniforms and driven stolen army vehicles to mask their attacks in the past. Such tactics raise concerns about ensuring the security of ANSF equipment. Especially concerning is the lack of a set method for tracking whether or how much equipment has gone missing in Taliban raids. Without that information, all that can be said for certain is that Afghanistan’s security forces are facing a new threat of unknown magnitude.


[1] “Suicide Car Bomb Kills At Least 12 Afghan Police” Reuters, (September 28, 2017).
[2] Sultan Faizy and Shashank Bengali, “Using a Grim New Tactic — the Humvee Bomb — Taliban Kill 43 in Attack on Afghan Army Camp” Los Angeles Times, (October 19, 2017).
[3] Faizy and Bengali, “Using a Grim New Tactic” (October 19, 2017).
[4] Amir Shah “Afghan Taliban launch twin suicide bomb attack on Kandahar army base killing at least 43 soldiers” Independent, (October 19, 2017).
[5] “Our Story” AM General. http://www.amgeneral.com/our-story/ (October 19, 2017).
[6] “AM General To Build 1,673 Humvees for ANSF by 2017” http://www.bakhtarnews.com.af/eng/security/item/24094-am-general-to-build-1673-humvees-for-ansf-by-2017.html?tmpl=component&print=1 (October 19, 2017).
[7] Gulabudin Ghubar “Taliban Seizing Humvees To Use As Vehicle Bombs” Tolo News, (October 9, 2017).
[8] Ghubar “Taliban Seizing Humvees” (October 9, 2017).
[9] Muhammad Hassan Khetab “5th pillar term’ being used for political gains: Lawyers” Pahjwok Afghan News, (October 6, 2015).
[10] Eloise Lee “This Is How More Than 15,000 Containers Of NATO Military Gear Are Stolen Each Year” Business Insider, (April 6, 2012).
[11] Jon Sharman “Suicide bomb and gun attacks on Iraqi restaurants and a police checkpoint kill at least 60 people” Independent, (September 14, 2017)
[12] Deepshikha Ghosh and Vishnu Som “Terrorist Pretended To Be Soldier, Then Turned His Gun On CRPF” NDTV (October 3, 2017).

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