Taliban storms Kunduz city

The Taliban assaulted the northern provincial capital of Kunduz from three directions and seized control of areas in the city. Unconfirmed reports from residents and Taliban fighters inside Kunduz indicate that Afghan forces have been driven out of the city and the jihadist group is in full control.

According to the BBC, hundreds of Taliban fighters launched their offensive today from three districts: Imam Sahib to the north, Khanabad from the southeast, and Chardara from the southwest. All three districts are thought to be under Taliban control.

The Taliban confirmed that it launched a three-pronged assault on Kunduz city. “The operations have commenced on the city center from 3 directions with Mujahideen quickly taking enemy positions and the enemy is retreating from their positions,” according to an initial statement that was posted on Voice of Jihad.

The Taliban later stated that its fighters have “reached the main city intersection, are targeting the governors [sic] compound and clearing the small remaining pockets from enemy presence.”

Afghan security officials have denied that the Taliban is in control of the city and have stated that the fighting was largely confined to the outskirts of the provincial capital.

But reports from the Afghan media, as well as Taliban fighters and residents inside the city, indicate that parts if not all of the city are now under the jihadist group’s control.

According to TOLONews, “Taliban insurgents have taken control of Kunduz city’s provincial council building and the local High Peace Council offices.”

Ehsanullah Ehsan, a stabilization manager at the international development agency DAI who is based in Kunduz, has said that the Taliban has seized the city and Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF] have retreated.

“Kunduz city is completely with taliban ANSF are out,” Ehsan tweeted. “[T]he city is completely with taliban now, taliban walking inside streets, i am trapped at home.”

Ehsan posted photographs purportedly showing Taliban fighters walking the streets of Kunduz and prisoners who have been freed from the city’s main jail.

Kunduz province has been hotly contested since the Taliban and its allies launched an offensive to seize control of the province at the end of April. The districts of Imam Sahib, Aliabad, and Qala-i-Zal were overrun in the initial assault, while Chardara and Dasht-i-Archi fell in mid-June. Khanabad fell under Taliban control the same day that Kunduz fell. The status of the six districts is unclear, but the Taliban is still thought to be in control of Imam Sahib, Aliabad, Chardara, Khanabad, and Dasht-i-Archi.

The Taliban and allied jihadist groups based in Kunduz have been flexing their muscles in the province in recent weeks. In August, hundreds of fighters from the Taliban and the allied Islamic Jihad Union massed in the open, in daylight, to swear allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the new emir of the Taliban. Last week, the Islamic Jihad Union claimed it controlled large areas of the border with Tajikistan and a border crossing from Kunduz into the northern Afghan neighbor.

The loss of Kunduz city, if confirmed, would be a major blow to the Afghan government and military, which have struggled to maintain security after US and NATO forces have drawn down to a token presence. Kunduz city would be the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban.

Additionally, the fall of Kunduz would invalidate the entire US “surge” strategy from 2009 to 2012. The US military focused its efforts on the southern Afghan provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, claiming that these provinces were the key to breaking the Taliban. Little attention was given to other areas of Afghanistan, including the northern provinces, where the Taliban has expended considerable effort in fighting the military and government. Today, the Taliban is gaining ground in northern, central, eastern and southern Afghanistan, with dozens of districts falling under the jihadist group’s control over the past year.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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21 Comments

  • paulo romero says:

    Typical of western military doctrine that cannot be adapted to the situation . These guys have been killing each other for 35 years and are good at it. The army should be a robust fighting force that can foot it with the Taliban using tactics that worked for the Northern Alliance. Instead largely uneducated troops have been given expensive equipment, made road-bound and reliant on air-power. Who exactly benefits from such a national army?? The net result is a reluctant force cowed by ambushes and IED’s that’s too scared to engage the Taliban on it’s own terms.

  • Frank Dunn says:

    If a provincial capital falls in Afghanistan but Obama doesn’t mention it and his loyalists in the news media don’t report it, does it make a sound?

    Tragically, the citizens of Kunduz will know the sound. A sound that will soon produce more refugees for the EU and the U.S.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    “Additionally, the fall of Kunuz would invalidate the entire US “surge” strategy from 2009 to 2012. ” I don’t agree. I’ve stated on this board previously. If you leave a vacuum, something will fill it. The west tried to build a 1st world fighting force, using weapons/tactics that the locals have a very difficult time understanding. The Iranians have the right idea: “small ball”. More bang for the buck.

  • Arjuna says:

    “Additionally, the fall of Kunuz would invalidate the entire US “surge” strategy from 2009 to 2012.”
    Heavy, but true. We couldn’t win a war these days if our lives depended on it…
    Putin does more in a day than the USG in a year.

  • mike merlo says:

    most unfortunate. No matter the weather will soon turn the tide to the Afghan Security Forces advantage. The ‘Wild Card’ in the deck is ISIS/ISIL/IS ‘Franchisee(s?)’ lurking in the vicinity. As Afghan Security Forces begin the methodical process of reclaiming lost territory the strength of ISIS/ISIl/IS & their immediate ‘aims’ will begin to emerge. As the Taliban are forced into retreat it’ll be interesting to see if some degree of collaboration takes place between the Taliban & ISIS/ISIL/IS as before & if it does how intimate it will be be. No doubt the ISIS/ISIL/IS ‘Franchisee’ is stronger & better prepared than when they 1st surfaced in Afghanistan so I suspect they’ll be that much more prone to take what they can from the Taliban expanding their reach & ‘base.’

    I look forward to the usual spew & spittle wafting from Zawahiri over the coming Autumn & Winter months as ISIS/ISIL/IS, the Taliban, AQ & the various other players ‘holed up’ in their Mountain Redoubts spend time hunting & murdering each other awaiting the ‘Spring Thaw.’ Zawahiri will indulge in his usual Kabuki Theatrics praising that which is aligned with ‘him,’ condemning & criticizing that which isn’t, & engaging in the Outreach Diplomacy that has come into vogue with the emergence of ISIS/ISIL/IS.

    Hopefully ISIS/ISIL/IS Intel in the AfPak Theater has gotten to the point where they can start targeting Zawahiri & others aligned with him for assassination, bombings, etc., & the usual ‘Fun & Games’ that has come to define this part of the world over the last few millennium. Particularly that mountainous Shangri-La so civilly administered by the Pathans.

  • paul says:

    how many of these insurgents are arab or Pakistani?

  • Ayamo says:

    The Afghan Ministry for Interior confirmed the fall of Kunduz. This is wow …

  • Fred says:

    I’ve been trying to put together a map of which districts are controlled or contested by the Taliban, but it’s difficult because of the sparse reporting from the area. Has the Long War Journal collated this information already and if so could you guys possibly publish a map of the current Afghan battlefield? It would be invaluable to those of us trying to build a picture of what’s going on over there.

    Unlike the Syrian and Iraqi battlefields there doesn’t seem to be any crowdsourced maps available either.

  • LeotheOrangeCat says:

    Just a matter of time before the Taliban is back in power.

    • mike merlo says:

      @LeotheOrangeCat

      “…matter of time…” by whose accounting? The Taliban have been out of power since December 2001. So after 14 years, a group by the way that has never held power in the past besides a brief 4 1/2 year tenuous stint in the late 90’s & early 2000 & held maybe 40% to 50% of the country under its sway & was, & is composed mostly of non-Afghans, is going to come back into power? Its not gonna happen.

      • LeotheOrangeCat says:

        “by whose accounting?”

        The National Intelligence Estimate conducted before the draw down.

        • mike merlo says:

          @LeotheOrangeCat

          “Just a matter of time before the Taliban is back in power.” That’s patently false. None of the recent NIE’s state anything of the sort. At best the recent NIE’s deduce the Taliban asserting control in some rural areas of Afghanistan.

          This Forum is grounded in reality, based on facts, some of which at times are empirically arrived at, with TLWJ Staff regularly submitting ‘insights’ & opinions. This is not a website governed by whimsical philandering’s or biased meandering’s organized to satisfy some political agenda or mindless mauling’s by some latte Leftist, basement Bolshevik, cafe Communist or some oafish sycophant loitering about flinging partisan spitballs.

          It should also be noted that the NIE’s should be viewed with suspicion as evidenced by the Head Fumblelina of the US Intelligence Community, DNI Clapper, 2015 ‘Statement for the Record’ assessment when singling out Afghanistan “the Taliban will probably remain largely cohesive under the leadership of Mullah Omar.” “Mullah Omar!” Huh! Now that’s a perfunctory oxymoron worthy of giggles & 2nd thoughts of an individual Head of a ‘Community’ tasked to be vanguard of the USA’s National Security.

          • LeotheOrangeCat says:

            Well, we’ll see what happens. I was only giving my view as a detached observer that is not personally invested in the outcome. To state the obvious, it is essential for the Afghani government that the U.S. presence is extended.

            I do appreciate your response, if not the vitriol.

  • Hcir says:

    Whats this Mean…The Iranians have the right idea: “small ball”

  • Hcirpad says:

    The Iranians have the right idea: “small ball”…explain this

    • m3fd2002 says:

      “Small ball” is a term used in American baseball, where you try to manufacture runs using clever tactics when facing superior pitching. In this case, the Iranians have put a lot of emphasis on small unit training/equipping that maximizes their firepower and maneuverability (Hezbollah for example). These techniques are easily learned by less educated personnel. In particular, their military doctrine is asymmetric, low intensity by design, making these highly maneuverable units less vulnerable to heavy counter firepower. Most wars since WWII have been along those lines. No one is bombing cities into rubble anymore that leads to unconditional surrender of the vanquished. However, that might change in the future.

  • Nathan C Langston says:

    “the fall of Kunduz would invalidate the entire US “surge” strategy from 2009 to 2012.”

    NO! What invalidated that strategy was the fact that the US has no vital national interests in Afghanistan. If it had then the surge policy, which was simply, bringing more troops to do a necessary job, would not be invalidated. Not its validity but its implimentation could then be faulted. It would simply have been in sufficiently strong and with not enough follow-up.

    But the reason it was a lukewarm effort, which preposterously, immediately posited a withdrawal date, was because Afghanistan has never really been a vital US interest. The surge was a political device, promised by Obama during his 2008 election campaign, when his claim that the Iraqi insurgency was unbeatable put egg on his face. In response he accused the Republicans of neglecting the resurgent Taliban and promised, if elected, to make that theater the central front in the war on terror and give it all the combat battalions necessary to win that fight. That produced the Afghan surge, not any US national interest, and that allowed the president to abandon his “necessary war” as soon as it became politically convenient.

    • mike merlo says:

      so I guess the locale that lent aid comfort & support to the 9 11 Conspirators was some kind of a fabrication?

      • Nathan C Langston says:

        Locals don’t lend aid, peple do. The 9/11 perpetrators were not Taliban or even Afghans. They were mainly Egyptians and Saudis. They were recruited in Hamburg mosques, trained in Florida and Oklahoma, their mastermind was a Kuwaiti. Osama bin Laden, their financier, was a Yemeni who set up camp in Afghanistan after having been sheltered in Sudan. He could have found nooks to hide in from Yemen to Indonesia, even Crown Heights in New York City. Writing his checks from there in a black hat and would have fit right in, have the benefit of Halal food and been perfectly safe. Should we then have gone to war against Brooklyn?

        • mike merlo says:

          @ Nathan C Langston

          blah, blah, blah…..laughable nonsense. The 9 11 Conspirators were residing & plotting in Afghanistan under the welcoming embrace of their hosts, the Afghan Taliban. Hence the Invasion of Afghanistan. End of story.

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