Taliban overruns district in southern Afghanistan

Map detailing Taliban-controlled or contested districts. Click colored district for information. Map created by Bill Roggio, Caleb Weiss, and Patrick Megahan.

The Taliban now controls 37 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. The group has made a push to gain territory over the past two months, seizing 15 districts in the north, west, and south. [See map above and from The New York Times.]

The Taliban claimed it overran the district center in Khanishin in southern Helmand province after making a final assault earlier today. The Taliban had been battling Afghan forces for control of the remote district for several days.

“Reports arriving from southern Helmand province say that for the past couple of days, Khan-e-Sheen district center and all its surrounding bases and check posts were under a tight Mujahideen siege and attacks,” the Taliban claimed in a statement released on Voice of Jihad, its official propaganda outlet.

“At around 11:30 a.m. today, Mujahideen mounted a major push against the last remaining enemy positions, triggering heavy clashes that lasted for about 3 hours as a result the entire administration center, district bazaar and surrounding check posts fell under the complete control of Mujahideen,” the statement continued. “The enemy also suffered deadly losses in the fighting while a large amount of enemy arms, ammunition and equipment along with several APCs and vehicles were also seized.”

The Taliban’s claim that it overran the district was largely supported by the Afghan press. According to TOLONews, “Local officials in Helmand said Wednesday evening that Khanishin district in the southern province has fallen to the Taliban following heavy clashes between security forces and militants.”

Khanishin was a haven for the Taliban long before it fell earlier today. Afghan security officials said in February 2014 that the Taliban ran training camps in Khanishin and neighboring Dishu district.

The Taliban have continued to push in Helmand to regain ground lost between 2009-2011 during the US “surge.” Of Helmand’s 13 districts, 3 are controlled by the Taliban, and another six are heavily contested. 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.

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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  • Rasputin says:

    What a nightmare.

  • KW64 says:

    While combat may rage in many regions of Afghanistan; nevertheless, it is all quiet on the Main Stream Media front back here in the US.

  • Andrew Ian Murphy says:

    So, I wonder how soon they will recapture the entire country again?

    And then I wonder…do the rest of you guys out there think this war was anything other than pure folly?

  • Michael Joenks says:

    Looks like things are getting bad for the Allied forces.

  • Mike Smith says:

    The only problem with this report is that there is no district named Khan Neshin or Khanishin in Helmand Province. There is a town by that name in Reg District.

  • Rosario says:

    Bill, I really like the map. It looks like the taliban strategy is to take over areas like Marjah so they can grow and sell more dope to finance operations. If so, what a shame – 0ver 50 years of investment (and blood) by the US for agriculture infrastructure in that area and that is the best the afghans can do – instead of growing food to feed themselves.

  • irebukeu says:

    Ah, a mention of Garmser. I have been waiting for word of this district. After reading the book “War comes to Garmser” I have been waiting to hear news of its reversion to taliban control. I see that the LWJ suspects it to be contested. I have googled it several times but nothing has come up in my simple searches.
    It seems to take very little to tip the balance one way or the other in these places. One of the village elders, changing his view or being bribed over, brings his 6, 9, 15 or whatever number of fighters into support for or against the taliban or government (or both) and the district flips. Lots of shots are fired but few locals are killed. Long running grievances or friendships are baked right into people’s decisions to engage or not to engage the ‘frienemies’. Milk the outside suckers that pay the checks. Corruption and abandonment of equipment to the enemy are the order of the day.
    An Afghan government cannot exist without someone else paying the bills. I don’t think one ever has,
    I see no solution but separation. I wonder what the flag of Pashtunistan will look like? There must be one somewhere. I’m sure the Baluchs already have theirs ready to go.

  • Nuthaus says:

    It would be interesting to see how the count of Taliban-held or contested districts has changed over time.

  • BobbyD says:

    Again, it would be helpful to define what is a district center. If the Taliban overran a dirt road with a few houses around it and a district building, is this really significant? Or if they hold it for a day or two only to lose it to Afghan forces, does it matter?

  • irebukeu says:

    It was folly from the start to have allied ourselves with the northern alliance. There was zero chance imo that the southern and eastern pashtuns would just allow it without an insurrection. IMO pashtuns will allow the taliban control to creep in again because it will at the very least put pashtuns back in power in the same way that Iraqi sunnis, without any hope of representation in the actual Iraqi power structure turned to ISIS. they will be reluctant to help a northern (foreign occupation) government that will, sadly enough, increasingly become more brutal which will attract more adherents to the taliban cause. The cycle of violence goes on.
    Our half in half out approach 2015 is folly.
    Disaster looms large for the present afghan government/map
    Anyone thinking otherwise must consider this article I am linking here either a joke, or some type of error.

  • Travis Burke says:

    I worked in Khan Neshin for a year, trying to build the government into some semblance of a functioning institution. During that entire time, we knew that if the proper connections to LKG weren’t made, it would simply be a house of cards waiting for a stiff breeze. However, every time we tried to make GIRoA self-sufficient, some new commander would come in and provide everything all over again…we never “stress-tested” the system, and now we are reaping the rewards.


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