Taliban overrun district center in northern Afghan province
The Afghan Taliban overran a district center in the remote northern province of Badakhshan and captured 27 government officials. A local militia commander and an Afghan intelligence official are among those captured during this week's assault.
The Taliban began the assault on Yamgan district on May 19 as part of "Operation Khaibar," this year's spring Taliban offensive, the jihadist group stated in a press release on its website, Voice of Jihad.
According to the Taliban, "the warden of the prison, Mano, an Arbaki commander, Abdul Bain, the assistant of NDS and other top level puppets are among this captured."
"Mujahideen also captured 25 Kalashnikov rifles, 3 P.K heavy machine guns, 2 rocket-propelled grenades," the Taliban continued.
Afghan officials confirmed that 27 security and government officials were captured, and said another 13 officials, including the district governor, have retreated to a hilltop, The New York Times reported.
The district remains under Taliban control and Afghan forces have delayed an operation to oust the Taliban.
"Due to inclement weather conditions in the area, security forces have been unable to regain the territory and have temporarily halted the assault," Badakhshan security chief Fazludin Ayar told Ariana News.
The once-peaceful province of Badakhshan has become increasingly unstable over the past several years, as the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have exerted their influence in the remote northeastern area. The province was transferred from ISAF to Afghan control at the end of January 2012.
The Taliban have taken control of districts in Badakhshan two other times since the end of last summer. In September 2013, the Taliban overran the Wardoj district center, prompting an Afghan military operation to retake the government complex. Shortly after the government claimed Wardoj was cleared, the Taliban ambushed an Afghan police convoy, killing 23 police officers and capturing more than 20. The Taliban denied that they were driven from the district.
Also in September 2013, the Taliban seized control of the Karan wa Munjan district center in Badakhshan. Shortly after the Taliban seized the district, Afghan security forces claimed to have regained control of Karan wa Munjan.
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan presence in Badakhshan
ISAF conducted eight raids against the IMU in Badakhshan between September 2011 and June 2012, and another in August 2010 that targeted a Taliban operative who aided "foreign fighters," according to ISAF press releases compiled by The Long War Journal. The last reported operation against the IMU in the northern province took place on June 18, 2012; an IMU commander was killed and several fighters were captured. The IMU is known to have a presence in the districts of Argo, Faizabad, Kishim, Shahr-e-Buzurg, Surkh Rod, and Yaftal-e Sufla. In June 2013, ISAF ceased issuing daily operational reports that detailed raids against al Qaeda and allied groups such as the IMU.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a key ally of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and has been involved in supporting their operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plotting attacks in Europe. The IMU is known to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and has integrated into the Taliban's shadow government in the north [for more information on the IMU, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan].