The Afghan Taliban claimed it overran the district of Ajristan in the southeastern province of Ghazni after laying siege to the district center for several days. If confirmed, Ajristan is the second district in Ghazni to be overrun by the Taliban in the past week.
The Taliban made the claim in a statement that was released today on its official website, Voice of Jihad, which is published in five languages: Dari, Pashtu, Urdu, Arabic, and English.
According to the Taliban, a “major of enemy troops surrendered to Mujahideen and the rest were forced to flee,” and the district center and police headquarters was taken “without any firefight.” The Taliban claimed it showed the besieged Afghan troops a “message of esteemed leader” Mullah Haibatullah, which presumably is the offer of amnesty for military, police, and government officials who lay down their arms and promise not to work with the Afghan government and Coalition.
Additionally, the Taliban claimed it seized “a sizable amount of war spoils” and its fighters “are conducting [clearing] operations in the district.”
The Taliban claim that it took control of Ajristan cannot be independently verified in the Afghan press. However, the Taliban is very credible when it comes to making assertions related to control of districts in Afghanistan.
The Afghan press has reported that the Taliban has been advancing on Ajristan’s district center and it has been on “the verge of collapse.” The district governor and police chief have fled the district center to another area in Ajristan and have been surrounded by the Taliban, TOLONews reported. This means it is very likely that Afghan forces abandoned the governor’s compound and police headquarters.
Ajristan is the second district in Ghazni to fall to the Taliban in the past week. On May 16, the Taliban said it overran the Jaghatu district in Ghazni province “after an intense gunfight of heavy and light arms.”
Security in Ghazni province has deteriorated rapidly over the past year. Of Ghazni’s 19 districts, the Taliban control five and contest nine more, according to information compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. Only five districts are considered to be controlled by the Afghan government.
Ghazni City, the provincial center, is one of seven provincial capitals under direct Taliban threat, according to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense. LWJ has assessed Ghazni City is contested, while Resolute Support, as of Jan. 31, considered it under government control. The Taliban control the road network into the city, and inside it live openly in one neighborhood, collect taxes, assassinate security personnel and government officials, and enforce its harsh brand of Islamic law.
The Taliban has overrun six district centers since it announced the beginning of Al Khandaq Jihadi operations at the end of April. The Afghan government claims to have retaken three of them, however the Taliban disputes this.
The US military has whitewashed the Taliban’s gains in Afghanistan, and described the group as “desperate” and “losing ground.” The Pentagon’s spokesperson even tried to pump up the Afghan military, and stated that all six of its Army corps are conducting offensive operations for the first time. However this is false, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis noted in Oct. 2017 that all of Afghanistan’s Army corps were on the offensive as of Sept. 2017.