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.