Taliban fighters mass in western Afghan province

Hundreds of Taliban fighters in the western province of Farah paraded their vehicles and then stood in formation for a lengthy period of time, without fear of being targeted by Afghan or Coalition forces, to listen to an official give a speech recently . The Taliban continues to be able to operate openly in nearly all areas of the country.

The Taliban displayed their military power in the contested district of Bakwa in a newly released video titled From the Fronts of Farah. The video which was released on the Taliban’s propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, “is dedicated to the Jihadic situation of Farah province showcasing the strength, control and advances of the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate,” according to an accompanying statement.

The video appears to be filmed at Bakwa’s district center or a large village in the district. In the video, scores of Taliban vehicles, including new Toyota Hilux pickup trucks and minivans, as well as HUMVEES and Ford Ranger pickup trucks that have been captured from Afghan Army and police units, are paraded by the Taliban. Taliban flags are flying everywhere, and many vehicles display the white banner of the group.

After the vehicles are parked, hundreds of heavily armed Taliban fighters line up and stand in formation to listen to a speech from Taliban “scholars and officials.” Again, Taliban flags are prominently displayed as the Taliban leaders address the formation.

Bakwa district is assessed by FDD’s Long War Journal as being contested. The Taliban has overrun military bases there in the past, and last year was able to kill eight policemen during an assault on the district police headquarters.

The video From the Fronts of Farah is the latest in a series of Taliban propaganda films that has highlighted Taliban operations. A similar video, from the neighboring province of Nimroz, was released by the Taliban earlier this month. As with previous propaganda videos, the Taliban demonstrated that it can easily organize its forces for assaults on bases and district centers and execute attacks over extended periods of time, or parade its troops in the open, without fear of being targeted from the air by Afghan or Coalition forces. The Taliban has taken advantage of its control of rural areas to mass its forces.

The Taliban has remained on the offensive against Afghan forces despite the US government’s modification of strategy and tactics that are designed to roll back Taliban gains and defeat them on the battlefield. If the US and the Afghan government want to halt Taliban gains, the Taliban must be forced to pay a heavy price for massing and striking outposts, bases, and district centers.

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

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  • anan says:

    Could the temporary shows of force in Farah and Nimruz be by forces that previously fought in Helmand?

  • DirkD. says:

    Perhaps all our drones are tied up in Yemen helping Saudi Arabia. Is Afghanistan still important enough to maybe spare just one?

  • The parade consists of 130, many of whom do not appear to be armed. It looks as if the individuals dressed in white are 50 strong and a further 30 with weapons appear to be in normal clothes. This is not ‘hundreds’.
    The report suggests Taliban successes and this is correct, but it would also be true to say that the Taliban have indeed suffered severe losses in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktia and Nangrahar in the last six months. They have struggled to regenerate forces, hence this need to parade to show their ‘strength’ at a time of falling recruitment. I would therefore suggest that this article is treated with some care as it does not indicate the full picture of the Taliban’s fortunes.

  • irebukeu says:

    OK, so 10 months in to the Trump presidency and this is what Afghanistan looks like? Remember the days when the military would say that the Taliban are no longer able to form into units of 150 or 200 any longer and that was Prima Facie evidence they were losing hard? Now they are mobil and not just on motorbikes. I wish I didn’t know right now what I didn’t know back then.
    Trump has submitted a budget and it calls for less money for wars including this war in Afghanistan while masking it with increased defense spending. None of this squares up. Is he planning a victory “off budget”? I think its safe to say no matter who is elected, regardless of the talk tough nonsense and the’ V’ for victory hoopla, the do little but lie about it approach will prevail. The result we want will not be obtained. Obama made the best effort hands down. Nobody has the heart for any expanded effort that has any real hope of victory they way people speak of victory in wars, so troop numbers will now be concealed as to not allow any obvious comparison. Not one person in government or even running for any position in government, dog catcher included, has the nerve to say “send in 100,000” again. Remember, the big political lie was that victory wasn’t obtained because 150,000 or so were not sent back in 2009.
    How long can you hold your nose and say things still smell OK. Things stink. Take a big whiff. Stalemate will be the end result.
    I remember terms like “muddle through” and “swimmingly” being used at various times to represent or misrepresent the situation.
    The question is; At what level of violence (How many Americans have to die each month) is that stalemate worth participating in? How much should we spend to lose X number Of Americans each month?
    Our involvement, if any, should be to end the inability of the ANA to locate the Taliban and track them,help guide them onto their targets. Based upon our level of commitment of forces and intelligence assets in theater, I don’t see change a com’n. Afghanistan’s borders cannot be controlled. Lets get out and work on our own.


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