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.
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.