The Taliban now controls 37 districts in Afghanistan and contests another 39, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. These numbers may be low given the methodology used to assess control and contested districts. The group has made a push to gain territory over the past two months, seizing 15 districts in the north, west, and south. [See map above and from The New York Times.]
The Taliban claimed it overran the district center in Khanishin in southern Helmand province after making a final assault earlier today. The Taliban had been battling Afghan forces for control of the remote district for several days.
“Reports arriving from southern Helmand province say that for the past couple of days, Khan-e-Sheen district center and all its surrounding bases and check posts were under a tight Mujahideen siege and attacks,” the Taliban claimed in a statement released on Voice of Jihad, its official propaganda outlet.
“At around 11:30 a.m. today, Mujahideen mounted a major push against the last remaining enemy positions, triggering heavy clashes that lasted for about 3 hours as a result the entire administration center, district bazaar and surrounding check posts fell under the complete control of Mujahideen,” the statement continued. “The enemy also suffered deadly losses in the fighting while a large amount of enemy arms, ammunition and equipment along with several APCs and vehicles were also seized.”
The Taliban’s claim that it overran the district was largely supported by the Afghan press. According to TOLONews, “Local officials in Helmand said Wednesday evening that Khanishin district in the southern province has fallen to the Taliban following heavy clashes between security forces and militants.”
Khanishin was a haven for the Taliban long before it fell earlier today. Afghan security officials said in February 2014 that the Taliban ran training camps in Khanishin and neighboring Dishu district.
The Taliban have continued to push in Helmand to regain ground lost between 2009-2011 during the US “surge.” Of Helmand’s 13 districts, 3 are controlled by the Taliban, and another six are heavily contested. Of the remaining four districts, The Long War Journal believes three (Garmsir, Washir, and Nawa-i-Barak) are contested, but data is not available to support this.