Taliban routs Afghan forces in western Afghan district

The Taliban has routed an Afghan National Army company and a border police force while pressing its offensive in the western Afghan district of Bala Murghab in Badghis province.

Bala Murghab district, which borders the country of Turkmenistan, has been contested by the Taliban for over three years, according to an ongoing study by FDD’s Long War Journal. Over the past two weeks, the Taliban stepped up attacks in an effort to seize control of the district. The effect on Afghan security forces has been disastrous.

By the end of the week, the Taliban blocked off all roads leading into Bala Murghab and overran 11 security outposts. They also put an Afghan National Army company stationed there to rout, and advanced to within one kilometer of the district center, TOLONews reported. Provincial police officers bragged that a counterattack was launched and the Taliban was “defeated.” However, over the weekend, the Taliban pressed their attack and crushed units of the Afghan Border Forces, a branch of the Afghan army.

An estimated 50 of the border forces surrendered to the Taliban, and another 100 fled into neighboring Turkmenistan, only to be turned over to the Taliban, The New York Times reported.

At least 44 Afghan security personnel were killed and 190 more were captured during the fighting in the past week, according to a tally by The New York Times. Sixteen Afghan soldiers were killed and 40 were captured when the company was overrun.

At this time, Afghan official’s estimates of soldiers captured by the Taliban more than doubles the claims of the Taliban. On Voice of Jihad, the Taliban issued two statements claiming that it has captured 72 Afghan soldiers while “with [the] fleeing of enemy troops a large area consisting of more than 2000 families came under Mujahideen control while enemy is under siege” in the district center.

Afghan officials told The New York Times that military reinforcements have been insufficient and the Afghan Air Force has been unwilling to attack the Taliban as its fighters are operating from civilian homes. Officals have warned that the district center is in danger of being overrun.

The security situation in Badghis has tilted in favor of the Taliban for some time. Four of the province’s six districts are contested by the Taliban, and one more is under Taliban control.

Badghis is by no means an outlier. The Taliban currently contests 205 of Afghanistan’s 407 provinces (50 percent), and controls another 51 provinces (12.5 percent), according to FDD’s Long War Journal. The Taliban routinely overruns Afghan security outposts and routs Afghan military units. The Afghan military has begun to withdraw from more remote outposts in an effort to preserve its forces and protect more populous areas. This has not had any appreciable impact, as the Taliban continues to effectively take the fight to the Afghan military.

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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