Former Bagram detainee threatens security in central Afghan province
As US and NATO forces continue to draw down in Afghanistan, security is beginning to deteriorate in some areas of the country that previously had few problems with the Taliban. Recently, Afghan officials warned of a Taliban takeover of Kajran district in the central province of Daikundi. From Pajhwok Afghan News:
Residents have warned the Kajran district in central Daikundi province could fall into Taliban's hands if the government did not pay attention in this regard.
They told this to the provincial governor, who along with the 205th Atal Military Corps commander, the Kandahar police chief, ISAF commander in the south and other high ranking official paid visit to the troubled town a day earlier.
Kajran ulema council chief Mullah Syed Hassan told Pajhwok Afghan News all roads connecting the town with the rest of the country had been closed by insurgents over the past several months, sending food prices soaring.
Another resident of the area, Haji Mauladad, said a large number of insurgents had sneaked into the town from Baghran district of southern Helmand province.
The warning comes just two weeks after Taliban fighters overran a base in the district that was previously occupied by ISAF forces. The Afghan military claimed it killed 26 Taliban fighters while taking the base; the Taliban denied the report.
The Taliban appear to have set their sights on Kajran. In June, five Taliban fighters and two policemen were killed in clashes as Taliban fighters attacked the district center. Pahjwok reported that Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi "claimed the government forces were forced into retreat after suffering heavy casualties [and that] the Kajran district had been surrounded by the Taliban over the past many days and the fighters were advancing."
The Taliban's shadow governor for the district of Kajran is Mullah Shah Abdul Rahman, who was released from Bagram prison sometime in the past year, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. Rahman mined the road leading into Kajran in April after tribal elders refused to meet with him. It is unclear why Rahman was released from prison.
The situation in Kajran highlights several problems that remain in Afghanistan.
First, the Afghan government continues to free Taliban commanders and fighters despite the fact that many return to battle Afghan and Coalition forces. The misguided notion that the Taliban are truly interested in conducting talks to participate in an inclusive Afghan government has led to a replenishment of the Taliban's leadership cadre and the rank and file.
Second, while the Afghan Interior and Defense ministries are touting high body counts (just two days ago they claimed that 48 Taliban fighters were killed in a 48-hour period; reports such as these have become frequent as the ISAF drawdown continues), the Taliban are threatening areas that were relatively peaceful just a few years ago (Badakhshan and other provinces in the north are good examples). The ISAF plan was for Afghan forces to take over security as ISAF troops left; but given the state of Afghan forces, with poor logistical support and more than 50,000 troops, or over one quarter of the force, deserting each year, it is difficult to see how they can secure the country when modern, well-organized Western forces could not.
And third, the situation in Kajran highlights a weakness of the "surge" of Coalition troops in 2010-2011. In many of the articles written about Kajran, Afghan officials repeatedly state that fighters are infiltrating the district from the neighboring district of Baghran in Helmand province. Baghran district was never cleared of the Taliban during the surge. ISAF's focus on what it described as "key districts" of Helmand and Kandahar allowed the Taliban to retreat to rural areas under their control, wait for the withdrawal of Coalition forces, and infiltrate back into areas that have been turned over to Afghan security forces.