Another northern Afghan district falls to the Taliban

Another Afghan district has slipped from the government’s control and fallen to the Taliban. Today, the Taliban overran Tala Wa Barfak district in the northern province of Baghlan after besieging it for months.

In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, the group said that its fighters “managed to take complete control of Tala wa Barfak district center, police HQ and all security check posts after attacks that began [in the] early morning hours today.”

“The bodies of 3 police[men] killed in the fighting are still laying on the battleground while their weapons have been seized and 13 other gunmen detained,” the Taliban claimed, adding that Afghan forces had retreated. The Taliban also said it was “engaged in heavy clashes with enemy forces in Kanda Sang area of Doshi district.”

The fall of Tala Wa Barfak was confirmed by the Afghan press. “Tala Wa Barfak district governor Faiz Mohammad Amiri said [the] Taliban seized the district at around 3am on Tuesday,” TOLONews reported.

According to the district governor, the jihadists attacked “from many directions and cut all the roads to the district.”

The security situation in Baghlan has been difficult to assess. But the Taliban has been very active in Baghlan and the neighboring province of Kunduz.

FDD’s Long War Journal estimates that two of Baghlan’s 15 districts are under Taliban control (Tala Wa Barfak and Dahana-i-Ghuri) and another two, including the provincial capital, are contested (Pul-i-Khumri and Baghlan-i-Jadid). The Taliban used these districts to threaten the capital city of Pul-i-Khumri during the summer of 2016.

Tala Wa Barfak is the second district to fall to the Taliban in the past two weeks. On Feb. 21, the group seized Shorabak district in Kandahar, where al Qaeda is known to have operated training camps.

The Taliban has increased its footprint in Afghanistan. FDD’s Long War Journal has identified 44 Afghan districts under the Afghan jihadist group’s control, and another 56 that are heavily contested. The number of Taliban controlled and influenced/contested districts has risen from 70 in Oct. 2015 to 100 this month.

This assessment has been verified by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which noted last month that the Afghan government “has lost territory to the insurgency” and “district control continues to decline.” According to SIGAR, the Afghan government controls or influences just 52 percent of the nation’s districts today compared to 72 percent in Nov. 2015. An estimated 15 percent of Afghanistan’s districts have slipped from the government’s control over the past six months. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Afghan government ‘has lost territory to the insurgency’.]

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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4 Comments

  • anan says:

    Shorabak will be back in government hands as soon as one battalion of ANSF returns to the district. The enemy will redeploy to another district in Kandahar which will then “fall” to the Taliban until the ANSF follows them to the next “fallen” district. The Taliban has not yet demonstrated the ability to take on a battalion or battalion plus ANSF force in Kandahar province without getting mauled. The Taliban are afraid of the ANSF and Abdul Raziq in Kandahar province.

    Any delay in retaking Shorabak is most likely the result of ANSF engaging in offensive operations elsewhere in Southern Afghanistan.

    Similarly Tala Wa Barfak will back in ANSF control as soon as a battalion is deployed to the district, but it is unclear when this will happen. 209th ANA Corps is waging an economy of force operation in the North and accepting risk in many parts of their AO including parts of Baghlan. 209th need a few dozen additional combat companies to cover their area of operations. The enemy generally folds when 209th Corps punches them. For example during the attack on Kunduz in 2016 and the diversionary feint at Pul-i-Khumri 2016. The last time the Taliban attempted to take on a brigade of 209th Corps in a set piece battle was 2015 Kunduz city . . . which resulted in heavy Taliban losses.

    Increasing the size of 209th ANA Corps does not appear to be General Nicholson’s priority. Resolute Force wants to double the Afghan Special Operations Forces from 17,000 to 35,000 . . . sucking the officer and NCO through put of ANATDC and the conventional forces to do it. Without a large increase in the number of training seats (which public source reporting doesn’t confirm is part of the Nicholson plan), this does not allow an increase in the conventional ANA, or 209th Corps in the North.

    The ANA Joint Chiefs, Special Operations Forces and MoI appear to be prioritizing offensive operations in Helmand in 2017 to regain battlespace and change momentum. If this is the plan . . . and is not derailed by exogenous events (Taliban/ISIS offensives elsewhere in Afghanistan, tensions along the Duran Line with Pakistan, etc.), The ANSF are likely to retake parts of Helmand province, albeit by accepting strategic risk and set backs elsewhere in the country.

    If the training command build hadn’t been slashed in 2010, the situation in Afghanistan today would be substantially better.

  • KW64 says:

    When it comes the United States general public, little is heard of these discouraging words. I suspect that will change if the decision is made to give our commander there the additional forces he has requested.

  • Habira says:

    Yes, but the west, including very deliberately and especially including European countries, are trying to “supply” Afghanistan with the “young men” they think will take up this fight, by sending asylum-seekers back to Afghanistan with barely enough research to determine whether the reasons they left, usually death of a father, brother, or attempts on themselves, by Taliban, local zealous neighbors who take Shari’a law into their own hands, are valid or not. These are, at least 80% of the time – based on my discussions with many of them – the wrong people. They are fleeing the constant fighting that they have grown up with. Someone needs to instill hope for the country (most of the news is bad, most have been exposed to local religious justice – seen it, heard it, suffered losses due to it, been terrorzed by it), and hope for justice there (currently the law itself is conflicted, and Shari’a law has little to do with fairness, but all to do paternal, violent, religious believes and traditions steeped in retaliation) if they want to have young people believing enough in their futures in the region to want to fight for their futures successfully.

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