Taliban overruns 2 districts in Afghan east

The Afghan Taliban overran two district centers in the east while Afghan forces regained control of another which has changed hands several times over the past year.

Afghan officials confirmed that the district of Zana Khan in Ghazni was overrun, while the Taliban claimed to have seized Gomal in Paktika province. Afghan officials then said that security forces regained control of Jani Khel in Paktia, however the Taliban has denied that claim.

A member of Ghazni’s provincial council said that the Taliban killed four policeman and confiscated two “tanks” (likely up-armored HUMVEEs) and several Ranger pickup trucks after storming the Zana Khan district center. Taliabn spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that a Taliban force inflicted “multiple enemy casualties” and “lots of weapons/equipment seized” during the operation.

The Taliban claimed it “took over the center of the district of Gomal and its checkpoints in Paktika province during an intense fighting following an offensive last night.” While the Afghan press hasn’t reported on the status of Gomal, similar Taliban claims have proven highly accurate in the past.

In the neighboring province of Paktia, the Afghan military claimed it ousted the Taliban from the district of Jani Khel, which has alternated between government and Taliban control multiple times over the past year. The Taliban last overran the district two weeks ago and flaunted a large cache of weapons and ammunition taken from Afghan forces.

However, Taliban spokesman Mujahid claimed that Jani Khel is “under Mujahidin control” and the “enemy attack [was] repulsed.”

Over the past month, the Taliban has taken overrun eight districts centers. In addition to the three mentioned above, the Taliban has seized Khamab in Jawzjan, Ghormach and Kohistan (or Lolash) in Faryab, Taiwara in Ghor and Guzargah in Baghlan. Afghan forces have since retaken Kohistan and Taiwara, however these districts remain contested.

The Taliban continues to demonstrate that it can conduct concurrent operations across the country, while Afghan forces largely remain on the defensive.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal. Alexandra Gutowski is a military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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20 Comments

  • loner says:

    The afghan army needs to step up its game. if this country the afghan,s and there army cant do any better than this by now, they are truly screwed. freedom has a cost and its blood that creates a free nation. it can not be the US forces only dying for afghans freedom. these people need to step up and take control of there nation only then will there country have freedom. God Bless The USA and God Bless Israel. Jerusalem is Israels Capital

    • anan says:

      Loner, many tens of thousands of Afghans in the ANSF have died for Afghanistan’s freedom. This year, likely something like 9 K or 10 K ANSF will die in combat. That is the equivalent of over 100 K Americans dying in combat a year.

    • Rob says:

      Tell that to the 2,531 Afghan soldiers and police who died from January to May of this year alone. Barely any Americans have died in Afghanistan since 2014, compared from 2001-2013. Don’t call their courage or willingness to die into question, the Afghans have born the brunt of this war since 2014, not Americans.

      • anan says:

        Rob, the number of ANSF who have died in January to May is a lot higher than 2,531. Did these numbers come from a SIGAR report? If so, which one? The Afghan MoD and Afghan MoI stopped reporting ANSF KIA and WIA years ago; for fear that the large number of casualties would hurt morale.

        SIGAR reports ANSF KIA that they can confirm which is only part of the actual total. In the past under-reporting ANSF KIA was a way to provide death benefits/pensions to surviving families. This has three problems; 1) official ANSF rolls are filled with ghost soldiers, 2) Afghan families are not being officially honored and thanked by their proud nation for their great sacrifice, 3) lack of transparency is never good.

        I think the Afghans need a much larger more robust death benefit for surviving family (which means more long term foreign aid for Afghanistan) and more transparency about ANSF KIA/WIA. I disagree with Afghan MoD and MoI that publishing true casualty numbers would be a propaganda win for the Taliban.

        ANSF casualties have greatly exceeded ISAF casualties since at least 2007. The ANSF has led the fight nationwide since 2011, when ISAF retreated to force protection mode. The ANSF has led the fight in specific regions of Afghanistan since before 2011.

  • Neo-JacobitefromNY says:

    You made common mistake of Paktia and Pakitka, the second sentence I quote here includes a link to Paktia, not Paktika. Confused yourselves 🙂

    “Afghan officials then said that security forces regained control of Jani Khel in Paktia, however the Taliban has denied that claim.”

    […]
    “In neighboring Paktika province, the Afghan military claimed it ousted the Taliban from the district of Jani Khel, which has alternated between government and Taliban control multiple times over the past year. The Taliban last overran the district two weeks ago and flaunted a large cache of weapons and ammunition taken from Afghan forces.”

  • anan says:

    My anecdotal observation is that when the Taliban claim a district is “under Mujahidin control”, in practice that means that the Taliban have significant military forces near the district center. Often the ANSF and Taliban both have significant military forces near the district center in districts “under Mujahidin control”. Often both the ANSF and Taliban are engaged in large scale ongoing kinetic engagements in districts “under Mujahidin control”. This said, I would agree that the Taliban at the very least tend to have significant military presence near the district center (and are heavily contesting) in the districts they claim to control.

    Of the districts you mentioned; I believe the Loya Paktia districts represent a direct Deep State GHQ proxy diversionary attack on the ANSF from across the Durand Line to prevent the ANSF from massing against the Taliban on other fronts; which the Taliban regard as their primary and secondary targets.

    The Taliban similarly doesn’t have the ability to hold Khamab, Ghormach and Kohistan. These too, are diversionary attacks to prevent the ANSF from massing against the primary Taliban effort in the North; which I believe remains Baghlan/Kunduz.

    The Taliban might also be serious about an offensive in Badakshan; but that remains to be seen.

    Now that ANSF morale has improved; and now that the ANSF are getting a lot more international help; I suspect that the Taliban will judiciously focus their primary attack on a few targets (Helmand in the South, Baghlan/Kunduz in the North); with a few secondary attacks (perhaps Badakshan; maybe Uruzgan; not sure where the Taliban will focus).

    Most of the Taliban attacks represent diversionary noise to draw the ANSF away from the Taliban’s primary and secondary targets.

    The Taliban are suffering astronomical losses in senior cadre, soldiers, equipment, logistics. The Taliban are also rapidly burning through their limited cash. The Taliban have to show significant progress to avoid falling morale and reduced international support (since their international sponsors want to back “winners”).

    • kimball says:

      I like what you write Anan, but Pakistan is the key. Yes, the pushed a lot of Taliban/AQ/IS over the border, but the weapon and material and bombers keep coming. Swat and Chitral should be under lock down. Badakshan is China borderarea and the day they find it more useful to cooperate with India, Iran on Afghanistan, then Pakistan will be back on square one, especially if there are heavy preassure from US and the Arabs give up on the “contain Iran” plan.

      • anan says:

        The Chinese and Afghans have reached an agreement for the Chinese to help the Afghans create and operate a new ANA brigade for Badakshan. The Chinese have pledged to fund it. The problem is implementation.

        For example should Chinese instructors train ANA soldiers at ANATDC? Should Chinese train ANA soldiers inside China? Should China send an embedded advisor team to work with the Badakshan ANA brigade? How do they coordinate with ANA Ground Forces Command, 209th ANA Corps and Resolute Force? How will OPSEC be handled? Will a Chinese senior officer be given tactical intelligence by Resolute Force, NDS, Afghan MoD, Army Ground Force Command, 209th ANA Corps, a proposed new 20th ANA Division based in North East Afghanistan, and the Badakshan ANA mountain brigade?

        The Chinese probably intend to add the Badakshan brigade to a proposed new 20th ANA Division based in North East Afghanistan, subordinate to 209th ANA Corps. However, since the Chinese are putting up $85 million into the formation of this brigade alone (in addition to other foreign aid to Afghanistan), they might want influence over how the ANA brigade is used. For example China might demand that the Brigade be used exclusively in Badakshan or other parts of Afghanistan where China has interests such as the railroad lines from the Aynak copper mine.

        _____________________________________________________
        sources:
        From page 39:
        https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Afghanistan-1225-Report-December-2016.pdf
        “Despite developing structures such as the ANA 20th Division headquarters under the ANA 209th Corps and the OCC-Rs in the previous reporting period to address command and control deficiencies, commanders continue to bypass the chain of command, leading to difficulties in coordination within and across pillars.”

        ++++++++++++++++++++++++
        https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Enhancing-Security-and-Stability-in-Afghanistan-June-2017.pdf
        page 21:
        “China’s low but increasing levels of military, economic, and political engagement in Afghanistan are driven both by domestic security concerns that violent extremism will spread across the Afghan border into China and, increasingly, a desire to protect regional economic investments. In late February 2017, China committed $85 million to establish and sponsor an Afghan-led Mountain Brigade in Badakhshan, but political, logistical, and resource hurdles will likely prevent the unit from becoming operational in 2017. China is a member of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) seeking to support Afghan and Taliban peace and reconciliation efforts, and Afghanistan continues to seek Chinese pressure on Pakistan to assist reconciliation efforts and eliminate insurgent sanctuaries. “

  • no one says:

    Humans never learn their mistakes. Sending an army to a remote country with a very different culture and religion will not end well.
    US may keep fight another 16 years and achieve a somewhat stable Afghanistan at the costs of many lives and tons of money. You should let their people define their own destiny. Let’s them fight, one side will win then peace will come. In few decades, these armed men will end up soft speaking old people, their sons will work in farms and cities, their daughter will be permitted to do most of the things only men can do now. Just forcing them to accept what you think right in few years will not convince them. You should lead them by example, not by force. This jihadist will find no reason to attack you if you retreat your troops to your own country. But as long as you keep your soldiers there and kill some civilians while shooting jihadist, then they can keep fighting.

    • anan says:

      “Humans never learn their mistakes. Sending an army to a remote country with a very different culture and religion will not end well.”

      Are you referring to the Deep State GHQ (General Headquarters) and Gulf combat enablers going to the Taliban. Wahhabis are alien and inconsistent with Afghan culture. The Taliban are deeply unpopular in Afghanistan.

      “This jihadist will find no reason to attack you if you retreat your troops to your own country. But as long as you keep your soldiers there and kill some civilians while shooting jihadist, then they can keep fighting”. Jihadists have killed over a million muslims. In many cases these muslims were not attacking Jihadist.

      Are you arguing that the Afghan National Army should not fight those trying to kill and oppress Afghans?

      If you are speaking of international combat enablers in support of the ANSF rather than the ANSF itself; then I disagree with your argument. The ANA is the most popular and respected institution among Afghans. International support for the ANA (and the ANSF more generally) improves Afghan perceptions of their international allies.

      “You should let their people define their own destiny.” Are you for or against free elections in Afghanistan? The current GIRoA is elected by Afghans; and its legitimacy is endorsed by traditional Afghan consensual mechanisms such as Loya Jirgas. The heart of the problem is that the Taliban are deeply unpopular and as a result oppose elections and traditional consensus mechanisms such as Loya Jirgas.

      “Let’s them fight, one side will win then peace will come.” Historically untrue. Extreme militant Islamists traditionally keep slaughtering and abusing muslims after they win.

      • Stephen says:

        You do realize that Salafist Jihadists tend to consider Afghan Sunnis are not truly monotheistic correct? The Taliban are not Wahhabis (nor are AQ/IS) either. Wahhabism is basically the state religion of Saudi Arabia that depends on the royalty. Salafism is essentially a rejection of that… it pushes that narrative that all sunni muslims are equal and members of a greater body.

        The Taliban are Deobandi, which is a revivalist movement like Salafism but its not the same. And the Taliban are pretty popular in certain areas of Afghanistan. Its just the reality of the situation.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deobandi

  • Ted Hitchcock says:

    I’m was so pleased to see you pressing on in mapping the Control situation! It’s confusing, hugely time consuming work, I know, but provides us an important reality check in a debate dominated by wishful thinking, pious pronouncements, and spin meisters beholden to groups with skin in the game.

  • Drew says:

    The Taliban clearly has more motivation and will power than GIRoA. We can only help the Afghan government for so long and provide it with so much. IMO, we should’ve pulled out a long time ago… if the Coalition proved that they cannot defeat the Taliban, what makes us think that the Afghan government will?

    Events like these will more than likely get overlooked by the decision makers in Washington, if they even get looked at at all. The generals and the administration clearly just want to save face at this point and not call a spade a spade; the conflict against the Taliban in Afghanistan is NOT winnable, and the Taliban will not agree to maintain positions within a puppet American government in Afghanistan.

    My only concern if we were to pull out (which would never happen anytime soon) is how strong Al-Qaeda, Haqqauni Network, ISIL, etc. will grow without a US presence in the country.

    Realistically, it’s time to cut our losses and focus solely on maintaining a counter-terrorism mission within Afghanistan. How can you train, advise, and assist someone who:
    a) doesn’t have the funding (they have the funding, but its lost due to widespread corruption)
    b) doesn’t have the motivation
    c) is really only looking out for themselves (ie. corruption)
    d) doesn’t have full fledged support from their superiors

    • anan says:

      Drew, these are General Headquarters (GHQ) Deep State talking points. Do you realize that the largest conflict going on is a proxy undeclared conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan?

      Try to look up a single Afghan public opinion poll taken in 2017 that shows the Taliban is not deeply unpopular; and that doesn’t show that the ANA is deeply respected and popular.

      GIRoA has never been and will never be a “puppet American government”; and all important people who allege otherwise through information operations know this. They are laughing at your naivety.

      Of course an international surge in the ANSF will result in ANSF military victory. The worry is that the Afghans will use their victory to cross the Durand line to take the fight to their hated enemies. No doubt the international community will beg the Afghans not to; and the Afghans might tell the internationals to bug off. This is why the international community has never tried to create a powerful capable ANSF. This is why the Taliban, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always opposed a strong ANSF. President Obama shut down the ANSF surge advocated by Gen McChrystal and Gen Petraeus in 2010.

      Motivating the ANA is easy . . . tell them they are fighting Pakistan and Pakistani proxies. The ANA will never stop fighting. The Deep State knows it; that is the problem.

      Afghan MoD and the ANA have made a lot of progress in professionalization, de-politicization and reducing corruption. The Taliban, ISIS, Pakistani Army, Iranian Army all have major challenges with corruption too.

      Not sure what you mean by “NOT winnable”. Perhaps you mean that an Afghan military victory over the Taliban would be too costly in lives and treasure and might reduce Afghan willingness to make concessions in peace talks with the Taliban and Pakistan? Not all victories are worth the cost.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very funny. Who has started all these games and who placed the players in different parts of the world to control everything for it. I am went to each of these districts and I know better who control what! The map is somehow close to fact but not fully.
    ANSF and even US armies were fighting but the fighting was not to over take controlled areas or bring security to people but to make it more worse and create a disaster which now is out of control. Afghan warlords and some key officials in courropt government still are supporters of IAGs fighting under name of the Taliban in northern, eastern and some western provinces.
    This game will go on will not be stopped.

    Thank you

  • Nasar says:

    I wonder why don’t Taliban announce bounty for US Army personnel stationed in Afghanistan. If they do, and manage to create a link between “green on blue attacks” and a handsome reward for the killer, then I think Americans would not have a place to hide inside Afghanistan. They would fear their won shadows, which might kill them any time any where.

  • Tweeter says:

    Excellent comments in this thread – well-worth reading!!
    Sadly, Afghanistan seems to be the locus of the most-preplexing, multi-facted, multi-variable (history, geography, geology, tribe, religion, gender, ethnicity, culture, tradition, wealth, depravity, poverty, honesty/deception, righteousness and willingness-to-die . . . +) civil and criminal, national and international challenge of our time. It seems also to be the most forgotten, which I attribute in part to the lack of success of the west to “help” “solve” the problems and jump-start a self-driven new system of governance that avoids war-crimes and other violations of human rights and other laws, and to the fact that the same problems that make life dangerous for locals – also make it difficult for journalists to get close to sound-bites, and video-bites that will ignite passion. . . namely realistic threats to life and limb. If I had not met so many adorable, caring, polite, well-intentioned and deeply traumatized young men who have sought (but been denied) asylum in Europe, I would also be guilty of knowing what has been, and is, going on.
    No. Trump won’t solve it. NATO won’t solve it. And, given the lack of education outside the madrassa (including for Hazara and females), and an end to corruption so that those who do get educations will believe there is a future for them in the country . . . it is hard to see a solution to the mess of a “Nation”. (I, for one, would also forget negotiating with the Taliban, what is that all about anyway? It is like admitting defeat -whatever the goals – to even contemplate it).

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