Taliban storms district in eastern Afghanistan

The Taliban took control of the district of Jani Khel in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia yesterday after laying siege to the district center for more than two weeks.

Both Afghan officials and the Taliban confirmed that Jani Khel fell to the Taliban late last night. On Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, the group claimed that it “stormed the enemy installations in Jani Khel district of Paktia province including district headquarters, police station and all its security and combat posts.”

“Mujahideen took over the district and overran 10 combat posts as well as police checkpoints, raising Islamic Emirate’s white flag,” the Taliban continued. Additionally, it claimed it killed “48 enemy personnel consisting of Arbakis [local militia], police and soldiers of ANA,” or Afghan National Army, and seized “15 armored tanks and 16 armored fighting vehicles,” and destroyed an additional six armored personnel carriers. The Taliban’s claims cannot be confirmed; the group routinely exaggerates the number of casualties inflicted on Afghan forces.

The governor of Jani Khel confirmed the Taliban’s claim that it did overrun the district.

“Our district was surrounded by Taliban for almost five days,” governor Abdul Rahman Solamal told Reuters. “Hundreds of them attacked our check posts overnight. If we do not retake it soon then Taliban can easily move from one province to another and can undermine security in at least three provinces.”

Solamal warned on Aug. 10 that the district was in danger of falling to the Taliban.

“The clashes are still ongoing two kilometers from the center of Janikhel,” he told TOLONews. “If supporting troops are not sent into Janikhel as soon as possible, the district will fall into the hands of the Taliban.”

Solamal’s plea for reinforcements and the failure of the Afghan government and military to provide support to districts under the threat of Taliban assaults has become all too common. The Taliban is sustaining offensive operations throughout Afghanistan as Afghan security forces, backed by US airpower and special forces, continue to struggle containing the jihadist group. Reports from Afghanistan indicate that the provincial capitals of Kunduz and Helmand are also in danger of falling to the Taliban.

The Taliban currently control or contest more than 80 of Afghanistan’s 400 plus districts, according to a study by The Long War Journal. That number may be higher as reports from some districts known to be Taliban strongholds are unavailable.

The Obama administration’s response to the deteriorating security situation has been to slow the withdrawal of US forces from the country, leaving 8,400 troops in Afghanistan instead of the 5,400 originally planned. Still, nearly 1,400 US troops will be withdrawn by the end of the year despite the fact that President Barack Obama described the security environment in Afghanistan as “precarious.” We have yet to hear an explanation as to how fewer troops will help the worsening security situation.

The US military continues to downplay Taliban gains and exaggerate the performance of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. On Aug. 25, Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, deputy chief of staff for communications for Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, said that Afghan forces “are generally on a positive trajectory.”

“But overall, as we look at the country holistically, and as we compare and add into that the progress that we’ve seen at the ministry of defense and the ministry of interior from an institutional level, overall we still do believe that the ANDSF is performing better this year than they performed last year. We think that they are still generally on track with their offensive campaign plan, Operation Shafaq. And then finally, we still believe that they are generally on a positive trajectory.”

Cleveland made the statement despite the fact that that Taliban has regenerated its forces since the US withdrew the bulk of its combat forces, is threatening provincial capitals and seizing district centers, and operating openly as a military forces in multiple regions throughout Afghanistan. Additionally, Al Qaeda has become so emboldened by the success of the Taliban that it has established training camps in the country.

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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11 Comments

  • Paddy Singh says:

    Fortunately WW2 is past tense, because had the mentality of the present lot of generals, advisers and policy makers planned those operations, it would have been a ‘no,no war’ for the Yanks. From the Korean war down to the present, they have a habit of underestimating the enemy, over estimating themselves and their allies. This has resulted in defeat after defeat for what is alleged to be the most powerful country in the world.

  • wws35801 says:

    Why will the Afghan Government not fight? Are they incapable or just corrupt?

  • Former soldier says:

    That governor helped the TB level a civilian casualty accusation against my team when we went there. Everyone has known that district was going to fall for an extend period. The only surprise is it took this long.

  • irebukeu says:

    Terrible that we have fallen into the snare again. Ignorance, pride and the love of military honor and glory will keep our foot firmly in the snare. Americans are already dying in Helmand. Are we really ready as a nation, divided as we are and in debt as we are, to do the heavy lifting to defend and fund a corrupt and morally bankrupt government and social system that has no history of unity in it? As long as the Afghan government thinks there is any hope of having someone else fight their wars they will lay back and cash the checks. They will. This is what they do. They have a long history of it. Someone else always pays the Afghans bills. The hypothesis that the Afghan government, full of northerners and Hazara check cashing mercenaries as the Pushtun see it, can rule with the acquiescence and cooperation of the Pashtuns, thereby securing the borders of Afghanistan and giving the government a chance to succeed, is an argument in support of pixie dust and is a 15 year failed faith based position. The Taliban will retake pashtun areas in the way that IS took Sunni areas of Iraq. What happens from there is up to the Pashtuns themselves, the Pakistanis, the other Afghans, the Iranians, the Chinese, the Russians, the Uzbeks, Tajiks and others. We have no secure access to the nation to begin with. We get milked, not literally but figuratively by the Kyrgyz, Russians and Pakistanis just for the feeble and little access we do have. The borders of Afghanistan cannot and will not be secured. The state will thus fail. Let’s get out and secure our own borders-pay down our debts.
    There is an old slander of the dutch known as the “dutch treat” in that if you were treated by the dutch to something “free” you would be paying for yours in the end, whatever the treat was. The point being the treat was no treat at all. A new term should arise known as the ‘Afghan treat’ in where you not only pay for your own but for the Afghans as well.
    “donkeys are the new Afghan helicopter”

  • KW64 says:

    As king Pyrrhus of Epirus might say, “More such progress and we will be undone”

  • ken North says:

    When Gen. Henri Navarre assumed command in 1953 of French Forces in Vietnam, a war raging since 1946, he confidently observed that “Now we can see success in Vietnam clearly, like light at the end of a tunnel.”

    As General Westmoreland would poignantly learn in 1967, history matters.

    Giap was an ardent student of military history who enshrined Sun Tsu, and studied both Napoleon and T.E. Lawrence for tactical insights.

  • Michael E Piston says:

    Just as responsible parents must eventually make clear to their 30 something child that their basement is not his permanent home, so too the Obama Administration is wise to continue to wean the Afghan government from U.S. support. The Afghan army is numerically superior, vastly better funded and hopefully better trained than the Taliban et al. There is no reason why it cannot now defend itself against a ragtag collection of militias if it really wanted to.

  • abd rahmaan says:

    why do we continue to fight in all these countries? some say to fight them over there is better then over here. i haven’t seen any success since the soviets first went there, and if you care to look at it historically. lol. i would say fighting in all these places makes it worse for us. all the money we spend in these wars would be better spent protecting north america and launching raids n drones as needed to c 2 that protect of the north american land mass. our foreign wars are recruitment events for those we think we are battling to destroy. can you imagine if all that money was spent protect north america from belize to the arctic circle, and improving life at home what a life the americans would have.

  • Michael Rhodes says:

    It would be nice if our military could describe strategic situations honestly… for once. I guess that wouldn’t be diplomatic enough for touchy Afghan klepto- uh, bureacrats.

    • irebukeu says:

      It would make it all the more clear to Americans why we should leave.
      The Military would be forced to explain the cost while others would be free to talk of the opportunity cost of such wasted endeavors. Better to lie and keep the game going. Then to circle the wagons and eventually play victim. Its pretty sad all the way around.

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