The Taliban overran the Kohistan district center in the northwestern province of Faryab early this morning. This latest assault by the Taliban yet again directly contradicts the top US and NATO general in Afghanistan’s assertion that the Taliban is “no longer attempting to gain new ground.”
In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed it took control of the “district administration center, police headquarter and other installations” in a nighttime raid. Afghan forces are “currently under tight siege of Mujahideen in Khair Abad area of the district” after retreating from the district’s administrative seat.
Afghan officials confirmed the Taliban’s claims. The district center was attacked at 22:00 on June 11 and fell by 01:00 local time this morning. The district governor and 13 Afghan soldiers were killed, 16 more were wounded, and four are missing, according to TOLONews. The Taliban reported that Afghan forces left “four corpses behind.”
Kohistan district in Faryab has been contested for well over a year, according to a study by FDD’s Long War Journal. It alternated between Taliban and government control during the summer and fall of 2017. On May 19, 2018, an Afghan official said the district is one of eight under direct threat of falling to the Taliban.
Security in Faryab province has deteriorated since the US ended its surge, withdrew the bulk of its forces and switched to a train, advise, and assist mission that put Afghan security forces in the lead. Two of Faryab’s 15 districts are controlled by the Taliban, nine are contested, and just four remain controlled by the government.
Taliban gains new ground
The Taliban’s offensive to take Kohistan puts another dent in the narrative that the Taliban has been weakened, is not on the offensive, and eager to negotiate a peace agreement – a theme that has been promoted by the Pentagon, Resolute Support, and its commander, General John Nicholson.
In a June 8 speech at NATO, Nicholson claimed that “The Taliban are no longer attempting to gain new ground. Rather, they are trying to inflict casualties and gain media attention. They are fighting in order to strengthen their bargaining position.”
.@Commander_RS Gen. Nicholson: The Taliban are no longer fighting to gain new ground in Afghanistan. They are fighting to inflict casualties and get attention. They are now fighting to improve their bargaining position.
— US Mission to NATO (@USNATO) June 8, 2018
Nicholson has given highly optimistic assessments of the situation in Afghanistan in the recent past and even agreed to a unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban while claiming the group seeks peace. Meanwhile Pentagon spokesperson Dana White has described the Taliban as “desperate,” and said it “has lost ground” and “has not had the initiative.”
However, an analysis of the fighting in Afghanistan as well as a statement by the Afghan Ministry of the Interior shows that the Taliban remains on the offensive in all regions, and are inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan forces as they attempt to claim further control of the country.