The Taliban launched an attack on Ghazni City and destroyed the governor’s compound over the weekend. Additionally, the Taliban claimed it took control of Waghaz district and is threatening to overrun Dih Yak.
“This morning Ghazni’s Waghaz district was conquered. Numerous enemy fatalities, 2 APCs destroyed, 2 APCs plus weaponry captured,” Taliban spokesman Zahibullah Mujahid said on his official Twitter feed on May 20. “Dih Yak centre and provincial centers [Ghazni City] under attack,” he noted in a separate tweet.
The fighting in Ghazni was confirmed by Afghan officials, who claimed that 25 Taliban fighters and two security personnel were killed during clashes in Ghazni City. Police officials told India Express that the Taliban “blew up the district governor’s compound with explosives” during the fighting.
Afghan officials would not confirm the Taliban’s claim that it overran Waghaz. The Taliban captured an unknown number of policemen and wounded the chief of police for the district, India Express reported.
However, press reports indicate that the Taliban remains entrenched in Waghaz. The next day, the Afghan Ministry of Defence claimed that 48 additional Taliban fighters were killed and 28 more were wounded during artillery strikes against “the hideouts of the Taliban insurgents in Waghaz district of Ghazni,” Khaama Press reported. The Ministry of Defence did not indicate how it determined the number of Taliban casualties. Both the Taliban and the Afghan military are known to inflate the number of casualties incurred during their operations.
The Taliban now claims it controls five of Ghazni’s 18 districts (Nawa, Khogyani, Rasheedan, Waghaz, and Zana Khan), and controls 60 percent or more of nine other districts. Only three districts (Nawar, Ajiristan, and Malistan) are fully under government control. FDD’s Long War Journal has assessed the Taliban’s claim of territorial control to be credible.
Ghazni is not the first province capital to come under Taliban threat. Taliban forces entered Kunduz City earlier this month and took control of Qala-i-Zal district, but were pushed back by Afghan forces. Kunduz City has fallen under Taliban control twice for short periods of time since the fall of 2015.
The Taliban has also threatened Pul-i-Khurmi in Baghlan, Farah City in Farah, Lashkar Gah in Helmand, Tarin Kot in Uruzgan, and Maimana in Faryab over the past year. [See Taliban threatens another provincial capital in Afghan north.]
Afghan forces have ceded control of some rural districts to the Taliban, claiming the districts are not strategically important. The Taliban has used these districts as bases to attack Afghan forces in more populous districts. The US military estimates that the Taliban now controls or contests 40 percent of Afghanistan’s districts, while the Taliban claims the number is closer to 50 percent.