Afghan security forces and the Taliban appear to have traded grasp of two distant districts. Afghan security forces claim they have ejected the Taliban from the Khanashin district center in southern Helmand province, while the Taliban claim its seized control of Marawara in the northeastern province of Kunar.
“The district of Khanashin is cleared of enemies,” said Ayoub Salangi, Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister, according to Reuters. “Afghan forces inflicted heavy casualties” on the Taliban, he claimed, without providing an estimate. An Afghan Army official claimed that 42 Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting.
The Taliban hasn’t commented on the fighting in Khanashin, but the group rarely notes when it loses control of an area it has previously captured.
The Taliban has continued to press its offensive in Helmand to regain ground lost between 2009-2011 during the US “surge.” Of Helmand’s 13 districts, 4 are known to be controlled by the Taliban (Nowzad, Musa Qala, Baghran, and Dishu), and another five are heavily contested (Nahr-i-Sarraj, Sangin, Kajaki, Nad Ali, and Khanashin). Of the remaining four districts, The Long War Journal believes three (Garmsir, Washir, and Nawa-i-Barak) are contested, but data is not available to support this.
While the Taliban lost Khanashin, it claimed it took control of the Marawara, a district in the northeastern province of Kunar which borders Pakistan. Marawara has changed hands multiple times over the past several years.
The Taliban made the claim in a statement on Voice of Jihad which accompanies a video that “contains footage of Mujahideen liberating Marawara district and all surrounding check posts, large amount of spoils of war and details about the operations.” A screen shot from the video can be seen above.
While the Taliban’s claim cannot be supported independently in the Afghan press, the group has accurately reported the takeover of other districts in the past.
The Taliban now controls 39 districts in Afghanistan and contests another 39, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. These numbers may be low given the methodology used to assess control and contested districts. [See map above and from The New York Times.]