According to this report in the New York Times, security in Ghazni City – the capital of Ghazni province in Afghanistan – has deteriorated to the point where residents are unsure if the Taliban or the government control it.
To summarize the report:
-The Taliban is collecting taxes from businesses and individuals.
– Taliban members are living openly in one neighborhood, where they outnumber the police. The neighborhood is basically a no go zone for security forces.
– Police, soldiers, and government officials are routinely gunned down.
– Senior police officials are bribing the Taliban to prevent the targeting of their officers.
– Recently, the Taliban overran all police checkpoints in one area of the capital.
– The Taliban controls the road network leading into Ghazni City, and is also exerting its influence in the outskirts of the city.
– The Taliban is running a court system and dispensing its harsh brand of justice, “claiming jurisdiction over the city and its outskirts, and carries out floggings, and even, sometimes, stonings.”
– When moving from building to building within the governor’s compound, the provincial governor rides in an armored SUV, often with armored HUMVEEs to escort him.
At the very best, Ghazni City and the district it resides in (Ghazni district) should be labeled as contested. The Taliban is able to exert its influence in many ways and is directly challenging the government and security forces within the city.
However, Resolute Support – NATO’s command in Afghanistan – has assessed Ghazni district as government controlled as of just three months ago.
Security in Ghazni district has not deteriorated over the past three months. The Taliban has been threatening the provincial capital since 2015. For this reason, FDD’s Long War Journal has long considered the district contested. The Times report merely provided a grim status update on the situation inside the provincial capital.
In January, Resolute Support Commanding General John Nicholson incorrectly labeled 2017 a successful year because Afghan forces denied the Taliban the ability to take a provincial capital. Nicholson was misguided in that the Taliban never stated that seizing a provincial capital was one of its goals. Yet, the Taliban all but controls Ghazni City and the surrounding areas. This did not happen over night, but is the result of years of work by the Taliban.
The latest reporting on Ghazni makes one wonder about the status of other Afghan districts where information is not as readily available and whether the security situation is even more dire than LWJ‘s most current updates would indicate. We already know the situation is increasingly more dangerous than Resolute Support has let on.