Taliban controls 3 districts in Afghan provinces of Wardak and Kunduz

The Afghan Taliban took control of three districts, one in the province of Wardak which is just south of Kabul, and the other two in the northern province of Kunduz, that were heavily contested during the US troop surge that began in 2010 and ended in 2011. One of the districts was the scene of the Taliban’s shoot down of a US helicopter that resulted in the deaths of 31 special operations personnel, including 17 US Navy SEALs.

Reports from Afghanistan indicate that the district of Sayyidabad in Wardak as well as the districts of Chahar Darah and Dasht-i-Archi in Kunduz province are under the Taiban’s thumb.

A reporter from the BBC recently visited the Tangi Valley in the district of Sayyidabad and noted that the Taliban fully control the district. He was given a tour by Said Rahman, the Taliban’s shadow district governor who is “popularly known as Governor Badr.”

Taliban fighters openly patrol the district during the daytime, while Afghan troops are confined to a small hilltop outpost. Taliban judges mediate land and other disputes. Taxes are collected. Schools, which are funded by the Afghan government, teach the Taliban’s curriculum, while girls are not allowed to attend. [See BBC report, Life inside a Taliban stronghold.]

Further north, in the province of Kunduz, Afghan officials admit that “the Taliban controls virtually all of two out of seven districts in Kunduz – Chahar Darah and Dasht-i-Archi,’ Reuters reports.

“It is gaining influence elsewhere, and residents say it has been able to because what little state authority exists is viewed with deep mistrust,” Reuters continues.

In Kunduz, the Taliban collects a 10 percent tax from farmers and business, mediates disputes in its courts, and runs the local schools.

A senior tribal elder said that the Taliban is well armed and Afghan security forces no longer pursue the Taliban in the districts.

“The local police force, recruited and armed by Western forces, had stopped trying to fight the Taliban altogether,” Reuters notes.

Sayyidabad and Chahar Darah: hotly contested districts in the past

Two of the three districts controlled by the Taliban – Sayyidabad and Chahar Darah – have been major battlegrounds in the past. US special operations forces heavily targeted the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and al Qaeda in the two districts between 2009 and 2012.

The Tangi Valley in Sayyidabad was the scene of one of the most deadly attacks on US forces since the war in Afghanistan began in late 2001. On Aug. 6, 2011 the Taliban shot down a Chinook helicopter in the district, killing 38 US and Afghan forces, including 17 US Navy SEALS from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (more commonly referred to as SEAL Team 6). More than one month later, the Taliban detonated a massive suicide bomb outside of Combat Outpost Sayyidabad, killing four Afghans and wounding more than 100 people, including 77 US soldiers.

In September 2011, the Taliban took control of Combat Outpost Tangi, which was abandoned by Afghan forces shortly after the massive suicide attack. The Taliban filmed its forces touring the base and released the video on its website.

Later that month, the US killed Qari Tahir, who the International Security Assistance Force described as the Taliban’s commander in the Tangi Valley, in an airstrike in the Sayyidabad district. Tahir led the force that was involved in the Aug. 6, 2011 shootdown of the US Chinook.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and al Qaeda are also know to operate in Sayyidabad. In April 2012, the US captured an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader who was planning future large-scale attacks in Kabul, Wardak, and Logar provinces.

In November 2011, the US killed Mujib Rahman Mayar, an Afghan national who served as an al Qaeda facilitator, during a raid in Sayyidabad. Mayar is known to have trained insurgents and acted as a courier delivering messages and money for al Qaeda’s network. Two suspected insurgents were also detained and multiple weapons were seized, including bomb-making materials, firearms, grenades, and ammunition.

Chahar Darah district has also been a hotbed of Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and al Qaeda activity, and is known to have been under Taliban control in the past. US special operations forces targeted the three allied jihadist groups in at least 16 raids between August 2009 and November 2012.

Among those targeted during the US raids in the district were Khadim, an IMU senior leader and Afghan national who was an explosives expert responsible for recruiting and training insurgents for suicide attacks; an unnamed senior IMU leader who facilitates suicide bombers from Pakistan; an unnamed Taliban leader who facilitates foreign suicide bombers, including Chechens and Pakistanis; Saifullah, the Taliban’s shadow governor for the district who led a group of al Qaeda fighters and maintained close ties with senior Taliban and IMU leaders in northern Afghanistan and Pakistan; and an IMU foreign fighter facilitator with ties to Iran’s Qods Force and local Taliban and Iranian-based Uzbek IMU facilitators.

Taliban seek to regain control of Afghanistan

The three districts in Wardak and Kunduz are the latest to fall under the Taliban’s control. The district of Sangin in Helmand province, where US Marines and British troops paid a heavy price to liberate during the surge, was overrun by the Taliban in June. The Afghan military opened peace negotiations with the Taliban in August, a sure sign that it lost its grip on the district. The Afghan military has claimed it regained control of Sangin but the reports cannot be confirmed. Meanwhile, the Taliban claimed on Oct. 20 that it “dismantled” a “strategic joint ANA and police outpost” in the nearby Nawzad district.

In July, the Taliban overran the Char Sada district center in the central province of Ghor. The status of the district is unclear. On Oct. 19, the Taliban claimed that “Arbakis,” or pro-government tribal militias, attacked the district, executed civilians, and burned down a village.

In August, the Taliban massed more than 700 fighters to attack Afghan security personnel in the Charkh district in Logar. The status of the district is unclear, but four soldiers and “scores” of Taliban are reported to have been killed in fighting in the district on Oct. 20.

And in early October, Junood al Fida, a group that is loyal to both the Taliban and al Qaeda, claimed it took control of the remote district of Registan in Kandahar province. The claim has not been confirmed.

The Taliban and the Haqqani Network, a subgroup that is closely tied to al Qaeda and Pakistan’s military and Inter Services Intelligence Directorate, are thought to control districts in the eastern provinces of Ghazni, Zabul, Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar, and Badakhshan.

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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  • jonathan Foreman says:

    .I’m in Afghanistan and I can assure you this story is factually incorrect. LWJ should be a bit more skeptical of dramatic media claims. The fact is that Sangin was briefly taken by the Taliban in the Summer but was quickly retaken by ANA forces in a nighttime heliborne operation.
    Most claims of Taliban massing more than a 100 fighters are simply untrue — it’s a means by which ANSF commanders try to get more resources out of ISAF and their own govt (though it has happened in Helmand). In Badakshan and elsewhere hen ISAF sent up ISR to check on 100+ claims during the fighting they saw mere handfuls of the enemy. Chahar Darar has been under Taliban control for years – it goes back and forth depending on who pays the local ALP police. Dasht-iArchi – a virtually empty district -has similarly been under sporadic Taliban control for many years. So no ‘takeover’

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I said the status of Sangin is uncertain. But your characterization of Sangin flies in the face of all of the reporting, Western and Afghan, coming from Sangin over the past few months. Afghan officials admitted they were seeking a peace deal with the Taliban. That is success? We’ve seen that movie before.
    You admit the two districts in Kunduz are under Taliban control. I never said “takeover” once in the article, so that is a straw man.
    You don’t address Tangi, and I don’t expect ISAF, which is vested in pushing a narrative of success so it can successfully “retrograde,” to address the ugly issue of Tangi. Or was the BBC reporter who was just there faking it? My sources tell me his account is extremely accurate.
    ISAF needs to come to grips and admit areas are slipping out of its/the Afghan government’s control.

  • kimball says:

    Taliban? Who is Taliban? I think they have a big problem to explain who they are. Desperados, paid mercenaries for drug-dealers and for ISI, UAE and Saudi. US has played kiddo with Pakistan for 50 yrs. Oh, you stole the blueprint for an A-bomb!!
    Well well, go on then. Bangla Desh, Genocide!! Not our shop, you know your friends, stick to them. In retrospect, maybe it was totally wrong to stop the Sovjets, they would have fucked up anyway, or maybe not, they would have rolled into Pakistan too. Anyway, districts in Afghanistan occupied?? It’s all about Pakistan and there masters + drugs. Close down Pak. south of Swat valley and put a serious squeeze or make a serious deal with the transport mafia Kandahar – Quetta + stop pouring dollars into the shifty eyed and the tide might turn.Going to happen?? Of course not.

  • Daniel says:

    The core point and where we have and will ultimately fail totally is whether or not there is an active and effective GIRoA presence in the district with a capable ANSF driving basic rule of law. The Taliban don’t have to mass people to physically occupy ground because they don’t need to. The Taliban’s literal and political freedom of maneuver are the indicators we observe to measure how much control is being executed over a population. The physical space the Taliban occupy is irrelevant unless you intend to directly engage them whether that be to break bread or drop bombs. This all rests on acceptance of the by the population of one entity or another which is at a fundamental level is a contest in credibility between GIRoA and the Taliban. Since the world marked the day it would leave Afghanistan GIRoA doesn’t have a leg to stand on and thus can’t hope to gain anything, just delay its own collapse.

  • Petr says:

    Tangi Wardak (Tangi means Valley, so to call it Valley Valley is non-sensical, albeit it is used often) has been under Taliban control for years, no change there. However, to argue that because Taliban controls Tangi Wardak they control whole Sayidabad district is an argument stretched too far.
    I argue with the general argument that areas under Taliban control (it is sometimes hard to define) are enlarging.

  • blert says:

    The very borders of Afghanistan are nonsensical, for that ‘nation’ is functionally a RING of towns and villages around a massive mountain formation which is plopped down in the center of its map.
    Snow melt from this massif runs off to supply the farms and villages — which would otherwise be too dry for habitation.
    The Afghanistan ring road travels almost exactly along the edge of this structure — especially in the southwest.
    And, obviously, practically no-one travel straight up the mountain. It’s virtually barren of habitation.
    The southwest is Taliban / Pashtun / Pashto. As you proceed clockwise, you hit Khorasan / Herat — which is politically and culturally Persian/ Iranian/ Shi’ite. By the time you’ve traveled up north — and over you’ve entered the southern edge of the Oxus river valley.
    These folks don’t belong in the same nation — at all. Between the cultural antipathies and travel pains todays map makes no sense.
    The northern tribes are never going to dominate the southern boys — and vice versa.
    Kabul is an interesting point. Other than British colonial influences, it’s hard to understand how Kabul ever rose to prominence. It’s basically the gateway to the north, with much better proximity to British India. The Kandahar-Kabul section is massively Pashtun, and should’ve been separated ages ago.
    If Afghanistan were broken up, then the tribes could get back to ignoring each other. But as long as the tribes see a way clear to dominate the entire space — they just can’t stop fighting.
    Since Karzai was NEVER able to convince enough Pashto to enter the ANA, it has to be obvious that the Taliban/ Pashto are going to just roll over the ANA all across the south.
    BTW, no-one in Afghanistan really wants to fight far from home. That’s what drives its epic desertion tempo… which is never brought up in the West.(!)
    Just like Iraq, nothing can really get fixed until the map is cleaned up. Both should’ve been addressed as far back as the Bush years. 0bama has even less of an excuse. He knows Pakistani culture from the inside.

  • kimball says:

    The Great Game goes on Blert, your arguing takes us back to that. Pashtunistan for Pahtans, meaning the whole NWF in Pakistan dissapears in a Puff. Punjab to Punjabis, Baluchistan to the Beluch and no more Pakistan! Let’s be fair, why only split up Afghanistan??Tribe is one thing, People another.Turkmen, Tadjik, Hazarat et.cet. Islam is the glue. Split Pakistan in four pieces and let them fight it out “down there”! please don’t say, “mountain plunked down in the middle” 🙂 The Parapomisus mountain (Greek since Alexander) peters out close to the river Hari Rud and the north eastern part of the Persian plain (Khorasan) but climes steadely eastwards until it becomes the Pamir mountains and next welcome to Tibet. Used to be a great country Afghanistan, Russia wrecked it and got away without paying a sou. I were lucky, spending a lot of time there 70-74 although Kandahar had a dark feel as always. Ringroad were only 3/4, going north from Herat, a hundred roads through the stepp on Toyota pick ups. 5 days to Maimana:-)

  • kimball says:

    Gearing up in Kunduz, bringing in the elite Kandas. http://www.afghanistantimes.af/news_details.php?id=9631


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