As the fight between the Afghan government and the Taliban for control of Ghazni City continues, three additional districts have been overrun by the Taliban. It has also come to light that Resolute Support – NATO’s command in Afghanistan – has intentionally misled the public about the status of seven of Ghazni’s districts.
Resolute Support claimed these seven districts were under government control. In reality, the Taliban physically controlled the terrain while the Afghan government operated them remotely from Ghazni City.
FDD’s Long War Journal reported on the Taliban takeover of two Ghazni districts on Aug. 11: Ajristan and Khwaja Umari. The New York Times confirmed that two additional Ghazni districts, Nawur and Jaghatu, have fallen to the Taliban. Additionally, the Taliban has claimed that Deh Yak district is under its control. While the status of Deh Yak cannot be independently confirmed, LWJ takes this claim seriously given the accuracy of recent Taliban claims of the status of districts.
In a stunning development, The New York Times reported that seven districts in Ghazni province were administered “virtually” by local government based outside the district.
“Seven of Ghazni’s districts had effectively already been under insurgent control before the current fighting, with the Taliban controlling so much territory in those areas that government officials could not remain,” the Times reported. “But to avoid having those districts counted as having fallen to the Taliban, the district governments moved their offices, including police and other administrative headquarters, to safer areas in other districts … The seven districts with only a virtual local government presence are not listed in American military reports as controlled by the Taliban.”
[Note, Resolute Support no longer identifies districts as Taliban controlled; these districts are considered “high insurgent activity.’]
The Times, which names two of the districts — Rasheedan and Jaghatu — went on to note that Afghan officials moved the Rasheedan district center to Jaghatu, which was subsequently overrun. The Afghan government’s solution was to move Jaghatu, Rasheedan, and five other district centers to Ghazni City.
LWJ was able to identify three more of these phantom districts centers — Khogyano (Wali Muhammadi Shahid), Nawa, and Zana Khan — based on a somewhat cryptic tweet by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid earlier today.
“Supposed district centers of Zana Khan, Nawa, Jaghatu, Rasheedan & Khogyano in Qala Sabz, Pelan Se & old Kandahar Hada areas inside #Ghazni city overrun, multiple gunmen killed & weapons/equipment seized. Enemy had setup centers for the said districts in #Ghazni city,” Mujahid proclaimed.
Following publication, the author of the New York Times story confirmed the identify of the two remaining districts in a message to LWJ. They are Waghaz and Giro.
With the fall of Ghazni City, these districts no longer have even virtual governance.
LWJ has previously assessed three of these districts as controlled by the Taliban based on press reporting: Jaghatu, Nawa, and Zana Khan. Long War Journal previously assessed Rashidan, Waghaz, and Giro as contested and was unable to determine the status of Khogyano (Wali Muhammadi Shahid). All five are now reflected as Taliban controlled in our mapped assessment.
The US military, in its most recent quarterly report on Afghanistan, maintained a far more optimistic assessment. It has described Khogyano (Wali Muhammadi Shahid), Jaghatu (Bahrami Shahid), and Rasheedan as government influenced. It conceded that Nawa is insurgent influenced, its strongest assessment, given that Resolute Support refuses to use the term “Insurgent Control.” The military described Zana Khan, Waghaz, and Giro as Contested.
Clearly, if the government cannot operate in a district and is forced to relocate, the government lacks influence.
Resolute Support and the US military’s concealment of the status of districts in Ghazni should come as no surprise. These two entities recently invented new classifications for the status of districts in an effort to soft-pedal the security situation. Instead of calling Taliban controlled and influenced districts as such, the terms “insurgent activity” and “high insurgent activity” were used. [See LWJ report, Resolute Support invents new terms to obfuscate Taliban control.]
Recently, Resolute Support has touted body counts as a measure of success in Afghanistan. These numbers are based on reports from the Afghan ministries of Defense and Interior, which are notorious for inflating Taliban, Islamic State, and other insurgent casualties.
Resolute Support and the US military are currently attempting to downplay the seriousness of the situation in Ghazni City and the surrounding areas. Resolute Support insists the Afghan government is in full control of Ghazni City and claims Highway 1 is open, despite evidence to the contrary.
Note: The piece was updated to reflect new information available after publication regarding the identity of two additional districts administered remotely: Giro and Waghaz.