The Afghan Ministry of Defense, in a startling display of honesty, acknowledged that seven of the country’s 34 provincial capitals are “under pressure.” The revelation was made two days after the Taliban entered Farah City and continues to battle Afghan forces.
The Ministry of Defense identified six of the seven provincial centers threatened by the Taliban as Farah City, Faizabad in Badakhshan, Tarin Kot in Uruzgan, Kunduz City, Maimana in Faryab, and Pul-i-Khumri in Baghlan, TOLONews reported. The seventh city was not named, but it is very likely Ghazni City, which is currently contested by the Taliban. Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, also remains under Taliban pressure.
“Yes. As you said a few cities are under pressure. But remember that cities are safe,” Ministry of Defense Deputy Spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told reporters the day after the Taliban forced its way into Farah.
The Ministry of Defense spokesman’s statement should come as no surprise. Five of these cities – Farah City, Tarin Kot, Kunduz City, Maimana, and Pul-i-Khumri – have been under direct Taliban threat since Oct. 2016. Additionally, the Taliban also threatened Lashkar Gah during this time frame. [See LWJ report, Taliban threatens another provincial capital in Afghan north.]
However, the threat never ceased in those cities. They were never out of the crosshairs of the the Taliban, which has continued to place pressure on the cities and the surrounding districts throughout 2017 and 2018. Following classic guerrilla tactics and strategy, the Taliban uses its control of rural areas to place pressure on population centers. Today, the Taliban is pressuring Afghan forces in all regions of the country.
Additionally, the Taliban is attacking Afghan forces and district centers on its own terms. It is dictating the pace of the fighting and forcing overstretched and undermanned Afghan military and police units to react to its operations. If Afghan forces commit to defending a city, the Taliban strikes poorly protected districts or military bases. If Afghan forces mass to retake a district center, the Taliban melts away with its newly found war material and lives to fight another day.
All of this serves to delegitimize the government and erode the the trust and confidence in Afghan security forces in the eyes of the average Afghan citizen. If the government and military cannot protect its cities, then they cannot protect the people.