Taken on its own, the Ministry of Interior’s data on the number of districts ruled by the Taliban indicates that the security situation has worsened since the last time the government such disclosed information. The Long War Journal estimates that 39 districts are under Taliban control.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of a Hezb-i-Islami faction, has toyed with the Afghan government in the past and withdrew from peace talks under similar circumstances.
Last weekend, the Afghan Ministry of the Interior claimed that Mullah Mohammad Qasim and an undisclosed number of fighters were killed in an airstrike in the Aab Band district. A Taliban spokesman said Qasim is alive and well.
“History shows that such befallings have never weakened this Movement, but more often than not, has only strengthened their resolve,” the Taliban said in the wake of the US drone strike that killed its previous emir. The West has “failed to understand the psychology of the Taliban” and its desire for martyrdom.
The US government continues to underestimate al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan and Pakistan. State’s insistence that al Qaeda has been “severely degraded in the region” is at odds with recent evidence from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We remain committed to defeating AQAP and denying it safe haven regardless of its location,” CENTCOM said while announcing three previously undisclosed drone strikes.
The US government continues to provide nearly $800 million in financial aid despite Pakistan’s historical and continuing support for jihadist groups that are actively fighting US troops in Afghanistan and plotting terrorist attacks across the globe.
The US military announced that it targeted Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, a top military commander and planner for Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in East Africa, in an airstrike late last month. It is unclear if he is dead or alive.