Taliban threatens another provincial capital in Afghan north

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The Taliban has surrounded yet another provincial capital in Afghanistan and recently launched an attempt to overrun it. The Taliban is now threatening six of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal, and its operations are not nearly confined to one region of the country.

On Oct. 16, the Taliban assaulted Maimana, Faryab’s capital, “from three directions,” and attacked the city’s airport and an Afghan Army base, but were rebuffed by Afghan forces, according to TOLONews. Taliban fighters withdrew to “bases to Khaja Sahib Posh and Pashtun Kot districts” after failing to achieve their objectives.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense said that the Taliban was attempting to free prisoners from Maimana’s jail, and claimed that “hundreds” of fighters were killed or wounded during the attack, Khaama Press reported.

The Taliban used its sanctuary districts surrounding Maimana to launch this assault. The Taliban controls the district of Pashtun Kot and contests Khwaja Sabz Posh. These two districts encircle the provincial capital.

The Taliban contests at least seven of Faryab’s 15 districts, and controls one more, according to a study by The Long War Journal.

The attack on Maimana took place one day after the Taliban ambushed the convoy of Afghan First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the leader of the ethnic Uzbek and Turkmen-dominated National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan Party. The Taliban claimed it killed “50 hirelings including 5 commanders” and wounded more than 100 in the ambush. Afghan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah claimed Dostum was wounded. His office later denied that Dostum was injured.

Dostum’s convoy was ambushed while he was traveling to Ghormach district, which was overrun by the Taliban on Oct. 11. Afghan forces claimed to have retaken control of Ghormach today.

The situation in Faryab has been deteriorating for well over a year. In Oct. 2015, the group seized control of Ghormach, Garziwan, and Pashtun Kot districts, and attempted to overrun Maimana. Over the summer, the Taliban “seized more than 100 villages in little over a week” in the districts of Almar, Qaysar, and Shirin Tagab districts, RFE/RL reported. The head of the Faryab Provincial Council said that the capital was under threat and “outside district centers, most areas are under Taliban control.”

The Taliban has put significant pressure on six of Afghanistan 34 provincial capitals. The Taliban is on the outskirts of two capitals in the north (Kunduz City and Pul-i-Khumri in Baghlan), two in the south (Tarin Kot in Uruzgan and Lashkar Gah in Helmand), and two more in the west (Farah City and Maimani in Faryab).

In order to threaten these capitals, the Taliban has focused its operations in the rural districts of Afghanistan. These districts are vital to the Taliban’s insurgency. The areas are used to recruit and train fighters, raise funds, resupply, and launch attacks into the population centers. This strategy was explained by Mullah Aminullah Yousuf, the Taliban’s shadow governor for Uruzgan, in April 2016. Despite the success the Taliban has had employing this strategy, General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan and the Resolute Support mission, has downplayed the Taliban’s control of rural areas.

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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10 Comments

  • M. Kiir says:

    The entire Pakistan is against poor Afghanistan. The ISI and other intelligence …. are all working hard to bring instability in Afghanistan. These capital are in distress but Pakistan will never won this (I mean Pakistan will never find friends in Afghanistan, I swear even if the talipan come to the power they will not be PAKI friends.). So please leave Afghan in peace in comfort and do not bring more disaster to the innocent people.

  • anan says:

    The attacks on TarinKot, Farah city, Maimana, Pul-i-Khumri city were feints to prevent the ANSF near them from redeploying to other parts of the country. Mostly media sensations. The Taliban is not attempting to actually capture and hold them and doesn’t pose a credible threat of “defeating” the ANSF in these areas. Typically their operations consist of a few commando raids that withdraw when the ANSF maneuver to engage them. This said, from the Taliban’s perspective these attacks were successful because they kept local ANSF from redeploying to other parts of Afghanistan.

    Kunduz City was a more serious larger effort on the part of the Taliban. But there too, they didn’t seriously threaten control over Kunduz city. Within 2 days, ANSF quick reaction forces engaged them in the city. The Taliban occupied civilian homes (mostly over the strong objections of the civilians who lived in them). The ANSF slowly removed them to avoid civilian casualties. The Taliban in Kunduz hasn’t demonstrated the ability to successfully engage the 209th ANA Corps in battalion sized maneuver operations.

    The only serious attack was on Lashkar Gah. Many of the Taliban who were involved in that attack have redeployed back to staging areas in Sangin and other parts of Helmand. The Taliban appear to have orchestrated a division sized operation, simultaneously hitting many parts of Helmand. This division sized operation ended over a week ago. It was very expensive in terms of money, Taliban casualties, combat enablers (supplies, transportation, maintenance, ammunition, equipment, fuel, C2, ISR, advisers, communication). This had to be supported to a very large degree from the deep state. With a lot of funding coming from the Gulf. The Taliban offensive in Helmand was surprisingly effective.

    At the current time, the Taliban are only attacking Maimana. Expect the Taliban to withdraw within a few hours to prevent their forces from being ripped apart by 209th ANA Corps.

    I think articles like this should give context. For example, saying that the Taliban attacked six provincial capitals in recent months, but all simultaneously. The Taliban lacks the logistics to resource several large offensives simultaneously.

    • Arjuna says:

      Excellent comment and well-received, I’m sure. We are ALL here to learn and exchange information, not bias.

  • anan says:

    Typo above.

    ” the Taliban attacked six provincial capitals in recent months, but [NOT ] all simultaneously. The Taliban lacks the logistics to resource several large offensives simultaneously.”

  • DB says:

    Of course Nicholson is downplaying the facts, they all do, and did.

    Just over 2-weeks before a new POTUS is elected. Then Obama’s Generals can talk real figures and blame it on the next guy. Yes, I said guy..

    No one threatens Hussein’s legacy. No one.

  • Arjuna says:

    Fifteen years after America “defeated” the Taliban (who I like to call the Taliban/ISI), Kerry and Obama are forcing poor Abdullah Abdullah and Ghani to give up ground to the Taliban/ISI because we don’t have the staying power (political will and human fortitude) to defeat Al Qaeda’s number one allies. How pitiful is that?
    Pakistan is the Taliban/ISI’s number one ally. ISI houses and protects the leaders and helps plan and direct offensives and operations. ISI houses and protects Zawahiri who was sworn allegiance to the Taliban chief. In other words, we are surrendering to the vile monster (Zawahiri) who did 9/11. All because we are weak and distracted.
    No amount of political spin can disguise the fact that this is a worse defeat than Iraq. We are giving the Butchers of New York and DC what they wanted, a nice little Islamic State where terrorists can rest and plan murder while casually raping children and stoning gays and adulterers to death. Nice job, Obama! You are some human rights guarantor. Not.

  • Moose says:

    I still don’t understand how the Taliban is so strong in the north. Strong enough to ambush Dostum, apparently. It’s the one thing about this war I can’t make sense of.

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