Afghan security forces ceded control of the district of Ghormach in Faryab province after being besieged by the Taliban. The Afghan military’s weak grip on remote areas of the country forced the government to punt again on another district.
Ghormach “completely fell into the hands of Taliban insurgents on Monday after security forces exited the town,” Pajhwok Afghan News reported, based on comments by anonymous Afghan officials. The Taliban ambushed Afghan forces as they left the district and killed three soldiers, according to ATN News. Afghan military officials claimed that 50 Taliban fighters, including two commanders, were killed in retaliatory airstrikes.
The Taliban, in a statement on its official website, Voice of Jihad, reported that “those enemy troops who were under siege of Mujahideen for the last one year following the conquest of Ghormach district center and other installations, fled earlier today through invaders aircraft, bringing the whole district under complete control of Mujahideen.”
Ghormach has switched hands several times in the past year. Most recently, the Taliban overran Ghormach in Aug. 2017. Afghan forces were able to retake the district center, but held little else in the district. The Taliban surrounded the administrative seat and besieged Afghan forces stationed there.
The fall of Ghormach was all but certain after the Taliban overran the Chenayeeha (or Chinese) base in the district on Aug. 11. More than 40 Afghan soldiers surrendered to the Taliban after the base was besieged for 48 hours. At least 43 soldiers were killed and 17 more were captured in the fighting that led up to the surrender. [See LWJ report, In Afghan north, soldiers surrender to Taliban after base is cut off.]
Afghan forces have taken heavy casualties in Ghormach, according to Naqibullah Faiq, Faryab’s governor. According to Faiq, an estimated “1,000 Afghan forces have been killed over the past three years” in the district, Pajhwok reported.
Faryab province, like many provinces in Afghanistan, has been hotly contested by the Taliban. Of Faryab’s 15 districts, four are Taliban controlled, four are government controlled, and seven are contested, according to an ongoing study by FDD’s Long War Journal.
The Taliban has used its prowess in Afghanistan’s rural areas to harass Afghan forces and force them to defend remote bases and outposts. The Taliban routinely attacks and overruns these remote bases, as well as remote districts. Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, has recommended that the Afghan military withdraw from more remote outposts in order to defend more populous areas. The Taliban, in turn, has leveraged remote areas under its control to attack more populated areas. Additionally, the withdrawal of Afghan forces from remote areas of the country has eroded Afghan’s confidence in the government’s ability to defend them from the Taliban.