The Afghan Taliban paraded its forces in broad daylight without fear of retribution after overrunning the district center of Waghaz in the southeastern Afghanistan province of Ghazni last month.
The Taliban detailed its exploits in Ghazni in a video, entitled “Conquest of Waghaz,” that was released today on its official propaganda website, Voice of Jihad.
“Waghaz district of Ghazni province is among the regions which has been completely liberated from enemy presence with the commencement of the blessed new military campaign of Islamic Emirate dubbed ‘Operation Mansouri,” the statement accompanying the video proclaimed.
In the video, the Taliban paraded scores of fighters driving motorcycles, cars, and a US-made Humvee that was captured during the assault on the district center. The fighters operated in the open, unconcerned that they will be targeted by US or Afghan aircraft.
Taliban fighters were shown raising the white banner of the jihadist group over the district center. The group also claimed to seize large quantities of weapons and ammunition during the assault.
The Taliban took control of Waghaz on May 22, the same day it assaulted areas in the capital of Ghazni City. The Taliban also bombed the governor’s compound during the fighting.
The Taliban now claims to control 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 claims of territorial control to be credible.
Afghan forces have ceded control of some rural districts to the Taliban, excusing the districts as strategically unimportant. The Taliban has instead 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.
Ghazni is also a known haven for al Qaeda and other allied jihadist groups. The presence of al Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Lashkar-e-Taiba cells have been detected in the districts of Andar, Deh Yak, Gelan, Ghazni, Shah Joy, and Waghaz, according to an investigation by FDD’s Long War Journal.
Al Qaeda has long viewed Ghazni as one of four key provinces in Afghanistan. In a letter written on Oct. 3, 2010 to Atiyah Abl al Rahman, Osama bin Laden advised key al Qaeda personnel to the eastern Afghan provinces of Nuristan, Kunar, Ghazni and Zabul from Pakistan’s tribal areas to avoid the US drone campaign in North and South Waziristan. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, Bin Laden advised relocation of some leaders to Afghanistan due to drone strikes in Waziristan, and Osama Bin Laden’s Files: Al Qaeda relocated operatives out of northern Pakistan.]
Images from the Taliban video, “Conquest of Ghazni”
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