The Taliban has forced at least 70 percent of the schools in the northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz to shut down after the terrorist group demanded teacher salaries be paid in cash. The closure schools highlights the Taliban’s grip on the province, where all of the districts are currently contested.
Kunduz provincial officials stated that between 350 and 450 of Kunduz’s 507 schools have been closed by the Taliban over the past several months, “which deprived nearly 200,000 students from education,” Pajhwok Afghan News reported.
Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that teachers are unable to travel to banks, which are located in the cities, “due to security issues.” While there may be some truth to that, it is more likely that the Taliban are seeking to collect taxes from the teachers, which would be more easy to do if the teachers are paid in cash.
The potential closure of up to 89 percent of Kunduz’s schools verifies reporting by FDD’s Long War Journal on the poor security situation in Kunduz. LWJ has assessed that all seven of Kunduz’s districts are contested by the Taliban. Given that the Taliban is able to close nearly all of Kunduz’s schools, the group clearly wields significant influence in the province.
This assessment is backed by data from Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. After refusing to release the totals for the status of Afghanistan’s districts to the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Resolute Support relented in January and not only released the totals, but the status of each district.
Resolute Support’s assessment of Kunduz indicated that two of Kunduz’s seven districts (Aliabad and Kunduz) are Contested, and the other five are Insurgent Influenced (Chahar Dara, Dasht-i-Archi, Imam Sahib, Khanabad, and Qalay-i-Zal). The classification of Insurgent Influenced is one step below Insurgent Controlled.
As LWJ only uses three classifications: controlled, contested and government controlled, these five districts are considered to be contested. LWJ believes the “influence” distinction is somewhat meaningless. Whether the government controls 70 percent or 30 percent of a district, the government is still unable to fully secure and administer to the population and faces a challenge from the Taliban in these realms; we therefore classify these districts as contested.
The security situation in Kunduz province rapidly deteriorated after the bulk of US forces withdrew and Afghan forces took control in 2014. By the fall of 2015, the Taliban controlled several districts and took control of Kunduz City, the provincial capital, for two weeks before being driven out by US forces. The following year, the Taliban took control of half of the city, including the governor’s office, before being driven out by US and Afghan forces.
The Afghan military has launched numerous operations and raids in an effort to eject the Taliban from the province. However, the districts remain clearly contested to this day.