After stepping up attacks against Afghan security forces in the southern province of Kandahar over the past several days, the Taliban has now overrun a large military base. The fighting in Kandahar takes place as the Taliban remains on the offensive on several fronts throughout the country as part of Operation Mansouri.
The first major attack took place on May 22, when Taliban fighters stormed a military base in Shah Wali Kot district in northern Kandahar. Afghan officials claimed that 20 Taliban fighters and 11 soldiers were killed during the fighting. According to the Ministry of Defense, “the base fell to the Taliban after heavy clashes lasting a couple of hours,” TOLONews reported.
The Taliban, which said the base was located in Arghandab district, claimed they killed 35 Afghan soldiers, captured four others and seized “3 APCs” (likely Humvees), as well as destroyed three more during the assault. Both the Afghan military and the Taliban are known to exaggerate the numbers of those killed in fighting.
That same day, the Taliban claimed it overran a border “check post” in the southern district of Shorabak and killed 15 Afghan troops. Additionally, the Taliban said it killed eight more Afghan troops after overtaking an outpost in the northern district of Khakrez. The group claimed it seized weapons and ammunition during the raids. Neither incident was reported in the Afghan press. While the Taliban routinely inflate the number of casualties incurred, it rarely lies about its operations.
Kandahar is a strategic province for the Taliban, and is considered to be the birthplace of the group. The province borders Baluchistan, the Pakistani province that serves as the group’s safe haven as well as a prime recruitment center. Kandahar is also a key to the production and distribution of opium, a major source of the Taliban’s income.
On May 23, the Taliban said it killed 4 Afghan soldiers and wounded four more during attacks on a military base and an outpost in Shah Wali Kot. Additionally, the Taliban reported that Arbakis, or tribal forces loyal to the government, “abandoned” a village in the northern district of Maruf.
On May 24, Afghan security officials reported that Taliban fighters killed 13 Afghan soldiers in a nighttime assault on military base in Maiwand district, according to TOLONews. Eight Taliban fighters are reported to have been killed during the fighting.
As of March 26, the Taliban claimed it controls four of Kandahar’s 18 districts (Ghorak, Miyanashin, Registan, and Shorabak) and heavily contests five more (Arghastan, Khakrez, Maruf, Maiwand, and Shahwalikot). FDD’s Long War Journal assesses the Taliban’s claim of control to be credible. Of the remaining nine districts, the Taliban says it does “not control any specific area” but “only carryout guerilla [sic] attacks.” If the Taliban was exaggerating its control in Kandahar, it likely would claim to control at least some areas of districts such as Panjwai and Zhari. Taliban founder and its first emir, Mullah Omar, founded the Taliban in Panjwai, and Zhari is considered the spiritual home of the group.
Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the Taliban’s success in Kandahar and other provinces. Up until Oct. 2015, al Qaeda ran two large training camps in Shorabak district. US forces killed more than 150 al Qaeda fighters while raiding the camps.
The Taliban offensive in Kandahar occurs as the group is battling Afghan forces in multiple provinces. Taliban fighters have assaulted Afghan forces in neighboring Helmand, where all of the districts are controlled or contested by the group, as well as Uruzgan, Zabul, Ghazni, Paktika, Kunar, Kunduz, Baghlan, Badghis, Faryab, and other provinces.