Taliban’s 2018 offensive encompasses all regions of Afghanistan

The Taliban’s 2018 offensive, which it calls Al Khandaq Jihadi operations, has targeted Afghan government forces in nearly all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. While Afghan security forces appear to be focusing on Taliban forces in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar – the birthplace of the Taliban and its traditional strongholds – the jihadist group is effectively counterattacking in the other regions of Afghanistan.

The Taliban appears to maintain the initiative throughout Afghanistan, while the Afghan military is forced to react to Taliban offensives, such as the latest incursion into Farah City. Since the beginning of Al Khandaq Jihadi operations, the Taliban has overrun five district centers in Badakhshan, Badghis, Faryab, Ghazni, and Kunduz. These provinces span the western, northern, and southern Afghanistan.

News such as suicide attacks in Kabul or Jalalabad, or the Taliban entering Farah City and the Afghan military’s efforts to retake it tend to grab the headlines in the Western press. However, a closer look at reports in the Afghan media of Taliban activity provides a disturbing look at the group’s efforts.

Below is a sampling of press reports from the Afghan media. The list below only includes major Taliban attacks in the provinces, and excludes high profile suicide attacks in the capital of Kabul. There are numerous other smaller Taliban attacks that go unreported. If all of the Taliban’s claims on its Voice of Jihad website were included, this picture would be much darker. Voice of Jihad is often dismissed as Taliban propaganda, nearly all of its claimed attacks, when reported in the Afghan media, can be verified.

The list below only includes reports from a three week period since the Taliban announced its 2018 offensive on April 26. In these reports, at least 198 Afghan soldiers, policemen, and pro-government militiamen and 30 civilians have reportedly been killed. The actual number is much higher.

The list details Taliban activities in 13 province: Badakhshan, Kunduz, and Baghlan in the north; Khost, Nangarhar, and Logar in the east; Zabul, Ghazni, and Kandahar in the south; Farah, Faryab, and Badghis, in the west; and Ghor in the center.

Again, the reports below are merely a sampling. The in the past three weeks, the Taliban has been very active in many other provinces, as Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika, Paktia, Kunar, Nuristan, Jawzjan, Sar-i-Pul, Balkh, Herat, and Takhar are known Taliban hotspots with significant activity.

The US military would like for you to believe that the Taliban is a “desperate” and “losing ground” in Afghanistan. A cursory survey of press reports from Afghanistan contradicts the US military’s portrayal of the security situation.

A sampling of reports of Taliban activity over the past three weeks from the Afghan press:

Taliban kill 18 Afghan forces in Ghazni
The Taliban overran Jaghatu district.

Taliban ‘Pushed Back’ In Farah City: Governor
“… 15 army soldiers, 10 policemen and five civilians were killed in the clashes.”

Heavy Clashes Ongoing in Two Districts of Ghazni
“He [an Afghan official] claimed that 13 security forces, mostly police, were killed in Zana Khan and nine police were killed in Jaghato

Heavy Clashes Ongoing In Ghor Province
Local officials confirmed that the village of Oshan fell to the Taliban after insurgents attacked the village.

Taliban seize strategic area of Balcharagh district
“… 10 security personnel were killed, 14 wounded and 30 others captured by the assailants as reinforcements could not reach in time and the area fell to the Taliban.”
The Taliban overran this district center but left it after one day.

Four Checkpoints Collapsed to Taliban in Zabul, 22 Police Killed

Nangarhar governor resigns amid tense security situation
“Violence carried out by the Taliban and the Islamic State has recently intensified there.”

Taliban Attack Two Checkpoints in Farah, Killing 43 Soldiers
A presage to the Taliban entering Farah City.

Taliban Suffer Heavy Casualties in Kandahar
Both Afghan and Taliban officials routinely inflate its enemy’s casualties. Afghan officials did confirm five policemen were killed in attacks initiated by the Taliban.

Residents Call For Large-Scale Operation In Badakhshan
“Some residents of Badakhshan called on government to launch large-scale military operations to remove “serious threats” to Faizabad, the capital city of the north-eastern province.”

Taliban Attack on Voters’ Registration Center in Badghis Kills 8 Soldiers

Taliban Kidnaps Seven Indian Nationals from Afghanistan’s Baghlan

Bomb Blast Inside Mosque Kills 19, Injures 33
This attack remains unclaimed, but it is very likely it was carried out by the Taliban. Khost is Haqqani Network territory and little goes on there without its approval. Also, the Islamic State is not shy about claiming attacks it did not execute.

11 Children Killed as Car Bomb Targets Foreign Forces Convoy in Kandahar

Taliban Attack Kills 30 Afghan Policemen in Badakhshan’s Teshkan District

Deputy Governor of Logar Killed in Taliban Ambush

Taliban Kills 14 Soldiers in Kunduz
Also, two policemen were killed in an attack in Baghlan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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7 Comments

  • don says:

    Just curious, but do the Taliban call this the Ramadan offensive? Is this normal for Muslim culture? Was there a declared cease fire in place? If so, is this cease fire a normal yearly phenomena or is it a western calendar bias similar to previous western labels for indigenous military activity, like the Tet Offensive or the Arab Spring? I gather these offensives are probably weather based to a certain extent, preferring summer or dry seasons for military operations as apposed to snow and the monsoons while taking into account the domestic politics of the “enemy” back in CONUS.

    • Victoria Martin-Iverson says:

      There is no declared cease fire in place. Why would there be? Why would you imagine there would be? I am quite puzzled by the question. The Taliban continue to refuse to participate in any peace process. One participates in a peace process when there is something to be gained from it. The Taliban have nothing to gain from a peace process at this time; and everything to gain from continuing the war process.

      They are essentially winning and expanding influence throughout the country in the Pashtun areas. Yes it is a yearly offensive that indeed directly relates to the weather. This is a mountainous nation and the roads, such that they are, are largely impassible in winter outside the major ring road.

      The spring push isn’t related to Ramadan for any religious reason, it just happens to coincide with it.

    • John Barr says:

      It is purely concidental that this year’s spring offensive happens to be launched around the same time as the holy month of Ramadan. This period is determined by the lunar cycle and it will change every year. It is not normal for Muslim culture to indulge in war fighting or tribal feuding, mainly because it isn’t practical in the first place. People tend to starve themselves silly to the point where nothing actually gets done in the working day, and this period can often reflect the lowest rate of a country’s overall industrial productivity. For instance, whilst I was deployed in Helmand as an embedded operational advisor with 205 Corps of the ANA, the askars wouldn’t deploy on operations, or if they did you couldn’t get much out of them for very long. Likewise the Taliban wouldn’t be game for a tear up over this period. The difference between back then and now is that this could possibly be a pivotal year for the Taliban. The US government has cleverly signalled that they will be here for the long haul, despite the fact that they accept that it’s effectively a stalemate and short term victory is wholly unlikely. This isn’t the news the Taliban wanted to hear, especially after 16 years of attritional war. From the Taliban’s vantage point it’s either now or never, so they can’t afford to take their foot of the gas and will attempt to maintain the operational tempo for as long as possible to tip the balance. So there may not be the traditional adherence to Ramadan as there has been during previous offensives.

      JWB from Kabul

    • irebukeu says:

      I think this is weather related and its yearly mot named for ramadan or timed with it. It always is at or very near the winter thaw. In the past the two definitions of “clearing the passes” were getting the snow off of bad roads and keeping the brigands at bay. There is no cease-fire in place that I am aware of though at times there have been cease fires on small limited scales in small localized areas. I’ll give an example. They will agree to a cease fire requested by village and tribal leaders so that the yearly crop can be gathered. Since the Taliban want support of the people, a particular valley will be free of operations and the Talibs sometimes will help gather the crops. American soldiers watched people gather crops-people they knew were Taliban (well, suspected I guess). Other examples would be the exchange of Bowe Berghdal. Cease fires are on very small scales and in limited areas only. Pretty good questions Don. I hope that helped.

    • Tom says:

      The only ones that do not want to fight during Ramadan (or often at all) is the ANA. They love to use Ramadan as an excuse to cut back on operations.

  • Observer 1 says:

    thanks for the info

  • Ahmad Afrooz says:

    Pakistan is spending too much in this war. United State is spend too.
    But remain one thing that how CIA can’t find its money sources, people are paying a lot of tax in pakistan and the government is spend the tax on Taliban. International Community is silent there is no pressure on Pak Army and Intelligence to end the war. 2) Iran is not using water sustainable ways, they run out of water so they attack us to get more water. 3) Russia intervene in Afghanland because of Nato Sunction, so russia is looking to bring a failure to them and make Nato to spend more and all Central Asia is slave of Russia.
    4) Qatar is another pain in the Ass that have problem with Iran and Saudi,Egypt, rest of Arab Union. 5) India interest in the reigon will push Pakistan to seek more control of Afghanistan. 6) China is have same interest so they re with Pakistan against India. 7) People in afghanistan have variety of point of view, So any subject cloud be interpreted different.

    Solution is too have same point of view.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis