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Taliban routs commando company in one of Afghanistan’s most secure rural districts

Last week, the Taliban launched an assault on the district of Jaghuri in the embattled eastern Afghan province of Ghazni. Reports in the Afghan press downplayed the severity of happenings in Jaghuri, which is considered to be the most secure rural district in all the country due to the demographics and geography.

However, reporters from The New York Times who were on the scene saw something much different and far more terrifying than what was reported in the Afghan press: an Afghan Special Forces commando company that was sent to bolster defenses was routed, while security forces and government officials were attempting to flee the scene as Taliban forces advanced.

As The New York Times noted, Jaghuri, which is considered to be “Afghanistan’s Shangri-La,” has until now been immune from the Taliban’s insurgency, despite that fact that it is located in Ghazni province, which has been a hotbed of Taliban activity. Jaghuri’s population of 600,000 is predominantly Hazara and are opposed to the Taliban. The Taliban has isolated the remote district by cutting off roads, but refrained from attacking it.

Until now.

Last week, Taliban fighters (more than 1,000 of them, according to the Times) pressed their attack into Jaghuri while also assaulting other districts in Ghazni. Reports from Ghazni, such as this one from Khaama Press on Nov. 7, parroted the official Afghan government line that the Taliban was “pushed” from the district as military reinforcements arrived. TOLONews echoed this sentiment on Nov. 7, when it quoted Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish.

“Enough equipment has arrived via air to our forces and backup forces have been deployed there. The situation is under our control, but clashes are still ongoing,” said Danish told the news agency.

Yet, as the Times reported, by Nov. 11, the situation in Jaghuri was in disarray. Security forces have all but collapsed. An Afghan Army Special Forces commando company which was sent to Jaghuri to help shore up the local militia that secured the district, was rendered combat ineffective. Of the 50 members of the Special Forces commando company, 30 were killed and 10 more were wounded.

The commander of the Hazara militia was killed and three of his sons are missing. Local Afghan officials pleaded with a delegation from Kabul to send reinforcements, but none came, despite promises. An official from the Ministry of the Interior downplayed the deaths of the commandos, and claimed they were local militiamen, despite the fact that the bodies of the soldiers being stacked in front of him were wearing commando uniforms.

As of Nov. 11, Afghan officials and all those who could leave the district were attempting to do so. The Taliban are said to be just miles from the district center, where the remaining security forces and militia are holed up.

Afghan forces seemingly on the brink of collapse

The Taliban’s rout of the commandos and collapse of Afghan forces in Jaghuri, and the government’s inability to send reinforcements, should come as no surprise. The Afghan military and police forces have been unable to defend Afghanistan’s rural areas and have been overrun at a host of bases, outposts, and checkpoints throughout the country over the past several years. The Taliban overran four significant bases in the first six days of this month. Since the beginning of this year, the Taliban has routed a commando company in Ajristan district Ghazni, and inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan Special Forces in Farah.

To remedy the problem, the US military and Resolute Support – NATO’s command in Afghanistan – advised Afghanistan’s ministries of defense and interior to pull back from rural areas and defend more populous areas. In theory, this should have preserved Afghan forces and defended the bulk of Afghanistan’s population from the predations of the Taliban. In practice, it has resulted in a degraded security situation and has put the Taliban in an even better position to threaten and attack Afghanistan’s population centers.

While US and Afghan military officials have claimed that Afghanistan’s remote areas are strategically insignificant, the Taliban has used its mastery of them as a springboard to take the fight to more populated areas. In these remote districts, the Taliban has established its shadow government, which it uses to spread its ideology and further its military aims. Here, the Taliban taxes the local populations, recruits fighters, establishes training camps and military stockpiles, while using these areas as staging points to attack neighboring districts. In the south, the Taliban controls and hotly contests a band of districts, panning from Ghazni and Zabul in the east all the way into Helmand, Nimruz, and Farah in the west that it uses to take the fight to the Afghan government. Over the past six months, this safe haven was used to launch major incursions into Ghazni and Farah cities.

The Afghan military has been unable to halt the Taliban’s slow but inexorable attacks that have taken place in all regions of the country. The size of the Afghan military has decreased at a time when more, and not less, soldiers and policemen are needed to stave off the Taliban assault. Over the past year, the size of the Afghan security forces has decreased by almost 9,000 personnel due to casualties, desertions, and failure to reenlist.

The Taliban clearly has the initiative and Afghan forces are on the defensive in many areas in Afghanistan. It is unclear how long the Afghan security forces can suffer losses such as the one in Jaghuri. Casualties are at an all time high, and the cumulative effect on morale of Afghan forces cannot easily be measured since elite forces and military and police bases are overrun with shocking regularity, at this point on a near daily basis.

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

View Comments (14)

  • And then we have the boss of RS claiming a military win is impossible, and news of dialogue with the Taliban in Qatar. And of course the US now suggesting the general elections should be postponed...

    When “the enemy” admits defeat, the Taliban/Muj ramp it up. If every military commander was order to read the books “The Other Side of the Mountain”, and “The Bear Went Over the Mointain”, we may have had a chance. But they didn’t, and we don’t.

    It’s time to just pack up and leave. The longer we stay the worse the defeat will be.

  • Taliban,s taking of military bases has became so common and on nearly daily basis that such news don't feel like any news. But their fight with Afghan special forces feel like a news because these special forces are considered the cream of Afghan army.
    It looks like Taliban are also beating the Afghan special forces as for the third this year Taliban have inflicted heavy losses on Afghan special forces.
    Congratulation to Taliban on two major achievements in one week. First for Moscow conference where they stole the show, and then for successfully assaulting the safest rural area of Afghanistan without any fear of reprisal. Bravo!
    Feel so sorry for the poor US allied Afghans.
    An advice for them: dont wait for US to do something, US is already desperately looking for some way to get out of Afghanistan. Do what US is doing - look for someway to get out of the country. Taliban are coming, and they won't spare you.

  • We are just immensely shocked and saddened... Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in Jaghori, to all our friends there. May this horror be stopped and may Jaghori soon become the safe haven it was for so long...

  • No mention of air or artillery being used.What kind of army can't repel 1000 fighters?Since the NY Times wrote the article it leaves me a bit skeptical.

  • 1. This is Vietnam all over again, except that Afghanistan is desert and mountains where Vietnam is jungle and mountains. As in Vietnam, our politicians and senior commanders don't have ≥≤any ideas on how to beat the enemy.
    2. You can't tell the good guys from the bad guys in the local population.
    3. The locals are not behind the effort to free them of Taliban control.
    4. Our forces there are at the end of a long and tenuous supply line that could be cut by potentially hostile powers any time, thus stranding our forces.
    5. Our "allies" are poorly led, tactically unskilled, and don't have the stomach for a fight.
    6. The American people don't have the patience or the will to use the amount of force necessary to win in Afghanistan.

    I think it's time we withdrew from Afghanistan.

  • The Afghanis need to fight harder to preserve their own country and government. If it falls to the Taliban, the world will have no choice but to consider it a terrorist regime and isolate it. Or worst, bomb it into powder.

  • Predictable. Its like the US never learned a thing from Vietnam where we fought a near-peer foe and were militarily defeated on the Battlefield because the ARVN never stepped up because the Officer Corps was corrupt and so was the RVN Government.

    You can't save a corrupt state. It is not possible. If we wanted a stable government in Afghanistan, we should have annexed it and exiled our forces there, had them marry Afghan Wives and raise Afghan Children and build the nation from the ground up over 40+ years.

    Instead we installed a corrupt businessman who appointed corrupt warlords who used the ear of US Commanders to launch airstrikes on their political rivals and stole from the populace. That in turn gave the Taliban space to come back. That was an utter recipe for disaster. And it was forseeable, making US Generals complicit in the failure as they did not resign when US Presidents overruled them.

    WHich is another thing, if you know a plan is bad, your obligation is to resign, if you do not, you implicitly agree and take responsibility for when it blows up. For far too long we have been letting Generals dodge responsibility for this mess and we must hold them accountable and stop worshipping them. A healthy democracy holds its Generals in suspicion of incompetence and removes them when they don't deliver results.

  • The same problem plagued US advisors in South Vietnam. When the locals willfully do not display the courage and dedication to fight for their tribe, and their territory the enemy always wins. The US has expended vast amounts of blood and treasure to help the Afghan people. I think Trump will eventually pull all US forces out. If he has to do this, the Afghan government and its people should be given a firm warning. If the Afghan people again become a security threat to the US, the US will not put boots on the ground. Nuclear weapons will be on the table. If you submit to the Taliban, or give aid and comfort to the Taliban, you become the enemy.

  • Major differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam:
    1. Vietnam was fought with a draft. Afghanistan was all volunteer. That gives Afghanistan more moral legitimacy.
    2. In Vietnam, the South Vietnamese government fell 2 years after the US pulled out. Afghanistan is 4 years on its own with only US trainers.

    • You omit one key fact. Yes, the SVN government fell 2 years after the US pullout of military forces. Following that, the US Congress stopped all funding and military aid to the SVN government...which was the death sentence. The NVN communists took advantage quickly. Four years on, the Afghan government continues to get US funding, combat air support, intelligence support, equipment/munitions support...and the training support you mentioned. Big difference to what the US did its SVN ally in 1973. I might add that there is a distinct similarity between both wars. In each case, the US did not execute a strategy to win...it only fought to not lose (a strictly political construct leaving the enemy in tact to continue the fight).

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