The Taliban currently controls more than 20 percent of the schools in Herat, and the chairman of the western Afghanistan province’s education department is “happy” with the result.
Ahmad Razaq Ahmadi, the chairman of Herat’s department of education, disclosed that the Taliban controls 219 of the province’s 969 schools, or nearly 23 percent, according to TOLONews. Ahmadi said his department is unable to administer schools in the districts of Adraskan, Ghoryan, Koshki Kohna, Obe, and Shindand “due to the high level of security threats.”
“In areas where there are security threats, the Taliban undertakes the monitoring, our employees can not undertake monitoring of these schools, therefore the Taliban are monitoring the schools in areas under their control,” Ahmadi said. He then praised the Taliban for administering the schools.
“We are happy with the monitoring by the Taliban, because at least they monitor the schools, for instance, the information which we have from the people in Koshki Kohna district, the Taliban monitor the schools and they control tensions at schools; we are very happy with this work of the Taliban,” added Ahmadi.
Ahmadi’s disturbing comments reflect a growing attitude of accommodation of the Taliban. As the Taliban has increased its influence in all quarters of the country and has had significant battlefield gains in less populated areas over the past three years, some Afghans view the return of the Taliban to be inevitable.
Mapping Taliban and government control
The report on the status of Herat’s schools highlights the difficulties in attempting to determine control of Afghanistan’s 407 districts.
Of the five districts mentioned by Ahmadi, four — Adraskan, Ghoryan, Koshki Kohna, and Shindand — were previously determined by FDD’s Long War Journal to be contested by the Taliban. Obe, which was assessed to be government controlled or status undetermined, has since been switched to contested.
While the five districts are currently listed as contested, it could be argued that the Taliban’s administration of schools and ability to keep them off limits to government officials indicates a high degree of control of the district.
Currently, FDD’s Long War Journal has determined that the Taliban controls 45 districts and contests another 115. These totals are close to the estimate by the US Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The Taliban claims a measure of control in 24 additional districts . These claims cannot be independently verified, however the Taliban has been accurate in its reporting of district control in the past. The remaining 223 districts (grey on the map) are either government controlled or, like until today, Herat’s Obe district, their status is unknown.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.