Taliban threatens 5 provincial capitals in Afghanistan

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The Taliban is now threatening five of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan. The Taliban has not confined its operations to one area of the country, but is active in all. The Taliban threaten two capitals in the north (Kunduz City and Pul-i-Khumri), two in the south (Tarin Kot and Lashkar Gah), and one in the west (Farah City).

In order to threaten these capitals, the Taliban has focused its operations in the rural districts of Afghanistan. These districts are vital to the Taliban’s insurgency. The areas are used to recruit and train fighters, raise funds, resupply, and launch attacks into the population centers. This strategy was explained by Mullah Aminullah Yousuf, the Taliban’s shadow governor for Uruzgan, in April 2016. Despite the success the Taliban has had employing this strategy, General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan and the Resolute Support mission, has downplayed the Taliban’s control of rural areas.

Provincial capitals under Taliban threat:

Kunduz: The Taliban entered the city of Kunduz on Oct. 3 and occupied large areas of the city for nine days before being pushed back by Afghan forces. Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, insisted Kunduz was under Afghan control one day after the Taliban entered the city despite reports to the contrary. The Taliban remain on the outskirts of Kunduz City; all seven districts in the province are at best contested.

Baghlan: Pul-i-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province which borders Kunduz, has been under Taliban pressure since May 2016. Pul-i-Khumri district and three more of Baghlan’s 13 districts are contested by the Taliban. The Taliban routinely shuts down the highway that links Kunduz City and Pul-i-Khumri.

Lashkar Gah: The capital of Helmand province has been under Taliban threat for well over year. In October 2015, The Taliban advanced to within miles of Lashkar Gah, which has been besieged ever since. Earlier this week, the Taliban ambushed and killed scores of Afghan security personnel after 300 of them attempted to flee an area near the city that was surrounded. US advisers have been deployed to Lashkar Gah and other districts in Helmand to help Afghan forces battle the Taliban, but have struggled to contain the threat. Of Helmand’s 14 districts, six are known to be controlled by the Taliban and another seven, including the provincial capital, are heavily contested.

Tarin Kot: The capital of Uruzgan province has been under direct threat since the beginning of September, when Taliban forces entered the city and battled Afghan security personnel who were backed by US advisers. The Taliban has since been driven to the outskirts of the city, where they remain to this day. Of the province’s six districts, one is under Taliban control and the remaining five are heavily contested.

Farah:  In the beginning of October, the Taliban cut off the roads to Farah City and attacked from the north. Afghan military commanders feared the city would “collapse.” NATO forces have deployed to the city and are launching airstrikes on the Taliban, which is said to be pushed to the outskirts. A Taliban spokesman claimed on Oct. 13 that it “launched on enemy positions in Baghi Pul area of Farah capital” and “Mujahidin closing in on city from E & N.” Four of Farah’s 11 districts are controlled or contested by the Taliban.

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

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8 Comments

  • dennis says:

    With our troops surrounded in these cities as never before, what does general Nicholson need to happen before he sees a’ problem’ . Pushing the enemy out to the city edges is not a winning strategy. As we’ve seen this week, the Taliban aren’t up for keeping any promises of safe passage. I hope his plans are a little more pro-active and in line with the level of force he’s meeting.

  • Tim G says:

    Bill,

    Just wondering. What is your source for this information?

    Thanks,

    Tim

  • It is clear to anyone by now that the war in Afghanistan has turned into an endless violent conflict. Forces are equal (having their own comparative advantages which they exploit), and vast territories being contested and changing hands proves that. Moreover, the time plays against the Government and the trend on the ground is not in its favor–militarily, politically, ideologically, psychologically, economically and socially. Foreign governments committing huge amounts of money is not going to change the situation on the ground considerably (it has not done so far–with all the indisputable improvements in various spheres of life in Afghanistan, the primary issue–that is the war–has not been resolved).
    It is time to reconsider the strategy. The only solution lies on the path of negotiations with the Taleban. They also are aware that no one can win this war and play by attrition. The military campaign backed by Resolute Support has played a great role in making sure that the Taleban know there is no conventional military victory for them in the end; but this is the limit of what NATO can do.
    First, we must distinguish between them, as a legitimate local political agency turned insurgents, and alien groups taking advantage of the power vacuum and acting locally, like al-Qaeda and ISIL that are purely terrorist organisations (even though with political clout). Second, this war is about power and as such the power-sharing (and closely related future constitutional set-up and administrative decentralisation) shall be in the focus of negotiations. The final settlement (whichever workable and mutually acceptable form it takes) shall be negotiated and agreed upon by domestic political actors, not imposed. The outcome may not be perfect from the West’s (or neighbors’) point of view but this is the only vehicle that has a potential to end the war.
    We have to be prepared for a long-long and nonlinear process, as there will be setbacks, occasional return to (hopefully localised) violence etc., but that’s what it is in the country going through four decades of conflict. No quick fixes, no panaceas, no ultimate resolution–but nationally owned process and continuous negotiation and adaptation until the workable model proves itself in practice.

    • den says:

      All these ideas are great, but as you have seen, and will continue to see as the drawdown nears a tipping point in an area will signal the Taliban that they don’t have to abide by anything.Slaughters will occur with more frequency and exponentially more horrific than the last. The more you believe they are on our level of political settlement, the more they laugh, as the Koran and all their mullahs tell the Taliban it is part of Islam to murder for terrors sake.

  • Arjuna says:

    Either you accept the child-raping, wife-beating Bamiyan obliterators or you don’t.
    I espouse total war against the Taliban, based both on geopolitical necessity and morality.
    This means America has to fight Pakistan too. Circle the wagons.
    Barbarism must be checked, starting with the Taliban, running through al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and ending with the butchers of Riyadh (who are exponentially more troublesome outside their own borders than the Persians).
    We need to re-engage, not disengage. No more retreats!

    • David Hayatt says:

      What we have to do with their tribal traditions which they have been practising for centuries and if they dont want to change then its not our responsibility to change them. During this 15 years war we have has lost billions of dollars and hundreds of our soldiers and threat to USA has continued to increase. Beside there has been no popular uprising against taliban and only small faction of northern alliance are against them. Its better for us to cut our losses and leave that country to natives. That area of the world has never seen peace in last thousand years and next thousand years are not going to be different.
      And you Indian must realize that not everything action should be motivated by hatred for Pakistan.

      • Arjuna says:

        I refuse to accept barbarism wherever it appears in life. That means I oppose any belief system that espouses polygamy, FGM, child marriage, slavery, corporal and capital punishment including for crimes of “belief” and suicidal violence to attain spiritual goals. I oppose the Taliban in the same way I opposed the Khmer Rouge e.g. not an acceptable belief system or political organization. One that must be destroyed, not aided and abetted by rewarding barbarism with a seat at the peace table. John Kerry wants to maintain his “honor” (cough, cough) by forcing the poor Afghans to throw in the towel and give the Taliban back territory that should stay in hands of GIRoA. My above comment stands no matter what the lying TB (ISI) say..
        http://www.voanews.com/a/afghan-government-in-secret-talks-with-taliban/3555832.html

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