In Afghan north, another district falls to the Taliban

The Taliban overran the district of Bilchiragh in the northern province of Faryab after besieging it for more than a week. More than 100 Afghan security personnel are reportedly missing. This latest fall of another northern district is part of a disturbing pattern of Afghan forces being surrounded by the Taliban and then either overwhelmed or forced to surrender.

The head of Faryab’s provincial council confirmed that the Bilchiragh district center was surrounded by the Taliban for more than one week before it fell. At least 40 Afghan soldiers defending it were captured, according to ATN News. The final toll may be worse: TOLONews reported that more than 100 Afghan security personnel are remain unaccounted for.

In statement released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban confirmed that its fighters took control of Bilchiragh and claimed that Afghan forces surrendered before the Taliban’s final assault.

“Mujahideen were planning to attack Balcheragh district administration center, police headquarter, bases, defensive check posts and other installation overnight, but the enemy troops have laid arms before Mujahideen after getting news of Mujahideen attacks, saving their precious lives,” the Taliban said.

Security in Faryab province has deteriorated over the past several years. Currently, the Taliban controls three of Faryab’s 14 districts, and contests seven more, according to a study by FDD’s Long War Journal. The district of Bilchiragh had been contested since the Taliban seized the administrative seat and then abandoned it in May 2018.

In May 2018, the Afghan military identified Maimana, Faryab’s provincial capital, as one of seven provincial capitals that were under direct Taliban threat. The Taliban has pressured Maimana by controlling the terrain outside of the city. [See LWJ report, Afghan military identifies 7 provincial capitals ‘under pressure’.]

The Taliban has been able to mass its forces in Faryab and elsewhere and overwhelm what should be numerically superior Afghan forces. Afghan soldiers and police have repeatedly complained that they call higher command for reinforcements and a resupply of food and ammunition, but their calls go unanswered.

This same situation occurred in Faryab just one week ago, in the district of Ghormach. The Taliban overran the Chenayeeha (or Chinese) base after a three day siege. At least 43 soldiers were killed, 17 more were captured during the fighting, and more than 40 surrendered after the Afghan military failed to send reinforcements and supplies.

Such attacks are not isolated only to Faryab. In the past week, the Taliban overran the Abdullah military encampment in Baghlan province and killed 36 soldiers and nine Afghan Local Policemen. In Ghazni, while the Taliban was assaulting Ghazni City, the Taliban overran a company of elite Afghan Army Commandos who were protecting the Ajristan district center.

The Taliban has used its control of rural districts to surround exposed Afghan military bases and outposts. Resolute Support’s response to the Taliban’s absolute control of rural areas is to advise Afghan forces to pull back from more remote bases and checkpoints and protect the more populous areas of the country.

However, as the recent assault on Ghazni and Farah cities demonstrates – on top of the more historical assaults in Kunduz City in 2015 and 2016 –  the Taliban has used its mastery of the rural areas to threaten major population centers as well.

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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12 Comments

  • Chris says:

    Why is Afghan military not responding to soldiers?

  • S R says:

    The US will be spending $62 billion in Afghanistan in 2019. That is more than the entire defense budget of the UK and that is almost as much as the defense budget of Russia.

    • Linn Cognito says:

      It all seems rather pointless. Time to fold our tents and leave

      • Sid Finster says:

        The funny part is that Trump can’t. If he does so, the chorus of “Putin puppet!” and “He’s giving Afghanistan to the Russians!” “he’s abandoning Our Brave Troops(tm)!” and similar nonsense will be deafening.

        If Trump were to order a withdrawal, the time to do it was right after taking office, when he could blame his predecessors and claim to fulfill a campaign promise. Instead, Trump foolishly listened to the generals and doubled down.

        Trump may not have started the Afghan War, but it’s his baby now.

        • irebukeu says:

          You are right in saying he can’t, right in saying he should have, right in saying it’s his.
          I hope he will change his mind again.

  • Murad Badshah says:

    Seeing the recent gains of Taliban, Afghnistan will be under Taliban in a few years, I hope before 2025.

  • Mohd Mehdi says:

    As a local analyst and talking to people on the ground, front-line Afghan soldiers and officers and local government officials increasingly believe that the now obvious pattern of corps-level commanders/government steadfastly refusing to send in supplies and reinforcements even after weeks of siege is deliberate and on purpose. It is actually part of a conspiracy to allow the Taliban the upper hand in overwhelming areas where otherwise non-Pashtun Junbesh and Jamiat militias have had it as own turf for decades. The insurgency/counter-insurgency is fast morphing into an ethnic civil war.

    • irebukeu says:

      Interesting. I certainly can see some advantage in pressuring the HIG towards some agreement by leaving them in the lurch or just plain using them as a buffer. They have a history of fighting with the Taliban and fighting against the Taliban. If this is what the government is doing then it will be sure to backfire at three times the expected cost.

      • Observer 1 says:

        This has been the claim since at least as far back as the marches on Kabul by Hazara who claimed that internet access was deliberately not being developed in their areas. Those I know have been saying that the government under Ghani is deliberately withholding protection of them. Important also to note that Hekmatyer, who was invited back into the government after being in exile, was given an army of I think it was 2,000 police of his own soon after arrival openly believed in the elimination of Hazara. My research showed that statements to this effect had been made by him as recently as 4 years before his return. Hard to believe that anyone in Afghanistan, or the U.S. government, could change the stripes on a cat like that.
        Another point worth noting, UNAMA does not distinguish between Hazara and others – but why not, when so many have fled and claimed that there was ethnic cleansing going on. Why aren’t they documenting how many of the casualties are Hazara or Shia – related??

  • Afghan Tony says:

    This is all straight out of Mao ‘On Protacted War’: countryside surrounding cities. It worked for the Chinese communists against the Japanese and KMT. And it’s certainly working for the Taliban today.

  • Paul Wolf says:

    Just imagine how many innocent people were killed in the bombing of Ghazni.

  • Roderick H Perry says:

    If the Taliban take control of the country again , I feel most sadness for the women. Since the U.S. has been there they have had a chance to play sports , go to school , and even the Olympics. What happens to them? They get a small chance to taste freedom , and to believe a dream can really come true. That will all be gone. That is so sad.

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