The Taliban has retaken control of the district of Kohistan in the northwestern province of Faryab over the weekend. The district has changed hands twice during the past several months.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Muhajid claimed on Sept. 24 that the Kohistan district headquarters and “all CPs/buildings” fell to the Taliban and there were “multiple gunmen killed” and a “sizable amount [of] weapons seized” during the fighting.
Mujahid’s claim of control of Kohistan was confirmed by Afghan officials from the area. The district fell after “hundreds of militants staged attacks from different directions,” according to Pajhwok Afghan News. Afghan security forces fled the area during the Taliban onslaught. Security officials accused the Taliban of burning down the homes of civilians.
The Taliban previously overran Kohistan, which is also known as Lolash, at the end of July 2017 and held it briefly before Afghan commandos retook the district center. The Taliban remained on the outskirts of the district center.
Faryab province has been a Taliban hotbed over the past several years. Of the 15 districts, the Taliban currently control three (Kohistan, Pashtun Kot, and Ghormach), and contest six more (Almar, Dawlatabad, Khwaja Sabz Posh, Maimana, Qaysar, and Shirin Tagab). The Taliban has used these rural districts and others in neighboring provinces to pressure the provincial capital of Maimana. In the winter of 2016, the Taliban launched major attacks in an effort to cut off and overrun the city of Maimana.
The Taliban has remained on the offensive in all regions of Afghanistan, despite the fact that the US military has loosened the rules of engagement to target the Taliban and give more discretion to US commanders to launch air strikes and other kinetic operations. While the US military is deploying an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan, they will primarily serve as advisers to the Afghan military and police. Meanwhile, the Taliban has been able to launch attacks using hundreds of fighters during broad daylight with little fear of being targeted via the air.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.