Yesterday, the Taliban launched an offensive to take control of the city of Kunduz, the capital of the northern Afghan province of the same name. Taliban forces penetrated to the center of the city and raised its flag before Afghan forces could respond. Resolute Support, the NATO mission in Afghanistan, initially denied that there was fighting in Kunduz, but then it backtracked and announced it was supporting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in the city. [See LWJ report, Taliban forces enter Kunduz city center.]
Earlier today, Resolute Support claimed on its Twitter account that the “ANDSF control Kunduz”:
ANDSF control Kunduz, Reinforcements arrived overnight. US continues to maintain robust enablers in the area and will support as needed.
— Resolute Support (@ResoluteSupport) October 4, 2016
However, multiple press accounts contradict Resolute Support’s claim that Afghan forces control Kunduz. This report, at The New York Times, indicates that Afghan forces only control half of the city, from the center of the city to the airport in the south. A police commander said that the front line begins at the governor’s office, which is just south of the city center:
Shafi Zakhil, the police commander for the second precinct, where the governor’s office is, said that the area was the front line and that United States forces were helping defend the governor’s compound.
“I am in Fatema Zahra School, which is in front of the governor’s office, and it is the front line,” he said. “U.S. forces are around the governor’s office and the police headquarters with their tanks. Taliban are on top of a building near the governor’s office and police headquarters.”
This matches a Taliban claim that its fighters are fighting about 100 meters from governor’s office:
Fresh reports coming in of the operation said the fighting raged once again early this morning with Mujahideen intensifying their attacks close to city’s police headquarters, governor’s compound. Fierce fighting is in progress 100 meters away from the governor house and police headquarters, forcing all the top-level officials including governor to flee towards the airfield to be flown out of Kunduz.
Additionally, Amruddin Wali, a member of Kunduz’s provincial council, pulls no punches and accuses Afghan officials of lying about success in Kunduz. His account in The New York Times also supports that of both the Afghan police commander and the Taliban:
But Amruddin Wali, a member of the provincial council, said local officials were exaggerating their successes and accused them of deceiving the Afghan people and the central government.
“It’s not the home of the police chief, or the army division commander, or the zone commander that is burning,” Mr. Wali said. “It’s the ordinary people’s homes and lives that are ruined, and the officials are continuing with their lies.”
Mr. Wali said the government controlled the area between Kunduz’s airport and the main city square, where it had parked armored vehicles. But, he said, “You can’t go past the main square without armored vehicles.”
Resolute Support appears to be putting the best possible spin on the Taliban’s latest incursion into Kunduz City. With half of the city still occupied by the Taliban, Kunduz is far from being controlled by the ANDSF.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.