Taliban launches string of attacks throughout Afghanistan

The Taliban has launched several major attacks throughout Afghanistan over the past two days, including an attack on the Ministry of Defense in the capital of Kabul, and another on election workers in Kandahar. In Paktia and Kunduz, the Taliban killed dozens of Afghan security personnel.

Kabul

In its latest attack, a Taliban suicide assault team targeted the Ministry of Defense’s logistics and engineering center in Kabul. A jihadist detonated a massive truck bomb outside of the office, which is near the Afghanistan Football Federation, Ghazi Stadium, and several schools and businesses, TOLONews reported. At least one person was killed and nearly 100 were wounded, including 50 schoolchildren and 16 soccer players.

The Taliban fighters continue to open fire on Afghan security forces responding to the attack, which is said to be ongoing. The Taliban fighters are said to have taken position in a building under construction that is near the defense facility. This is a common tactic that has been used by the Taliban in numerous attacks in Kabul over the past decade.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed credit for the attack on Twitter, and said “multiple martyrdom seekers” are “entering [the defense building] & engaging remaining hirelings.”

Kandahar

In the Maruf in Kandahar, the Taliban launched a major attack against the district center and killed eight election workers and 11 soldiers. The Taliban used four US-supplied HUMVEEs packed with explosives as suicide bombs, ATN News reported. The district governor’s compound is said to have been badly damaged during the assault.

The Taliban’s targeting of election workers is nothing new; it launched multiple attacks to deter elections in the past. In Oct. 2018, the Taliban called for “all its Mujahidin to halt this American led process throughout the country by creating severe obstacles for it.” The Taliban says elections are un-Islamic and describes them as a tool for “perpetuating the illegitimate foreign occupation.” The Taliban argues that it is a “religious duty” of all Muslims to oppose elections. It has repeatedly stated it will not accept the results of any election, and that only the return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is acceptable.

The Taliban took credit for the attack and claimed to have overrun Maruf’s district center. Additionally, the Taliban claimed the current Maruf district center was rebuilt after the previous one was overran last year. From Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website:

Amid ongoing Al Fath Operations, last night Mujahideen carried out coordinated attacks on the new district administration center of Maruf district as its orignal [sic] one was overrun by Mujahideen last year.

The Taliban was last reported to have overran Maruf in Oct. 2017 (it has changed hands between the government and the the Taliban several times since 2014; FDD’s Long War Journal has considered it contested).

While the Taliban’s claim that the district center has been moved cannot be independently verified, this is not without precedent. In March 2017, Resolute Support Mission, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, evacuated Afghan troops from the Sangin district center, then laid waste to it after the Taliban could not be ejected. A new Sangin district center was rebuilt several miles from the old one. This was hailed as a victory, despite the fact that the Taliban was able to withstand the combined arms of the US and Afghan militaries and hold its ground. [See LWJ report, Resolute Support spins loss of Sangin district center as a victory.]

Paktia and Kunduz

In Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan, which is home to the powerful and influential Taliban subgroup the Haqqani Network, jihadists killed 18 Afghan security personnel and wounded 17 more, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. The attack took place in Ahmadabad district.

In Kunduz, the Taliban killed 14 policemen and captured 20 more during an assault in the troubled district of Iman Sahid, Pajhwok reported.

District governors “governing” outside their districts

The spate of attacks occurs as TOLONews reports that 64 districts in 19 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are not being governed from the existing district centers. The report confirms that the district center of Maruf in Kandahar, which was attacked yesterday, was either moved or administered from outside of the district center (Maruf is explicitly listed as one of the troubled districts).

According to TOLONews, the survey “shows that administrative units in 64 districts in 19 provinces are either operating outside the premises of the districts or have been relocated.”

The most affected provinces are Faryab, which has nine districts that are not being governed from their original district centers, followed by Ghazni (8), and Helmand and Farah (each with 7). This assessment tracks with FDD’s Long War Journal’s analysis of the security situation in Afghanistan’s districts. These four provinces are among the most unstable. LWJ also assesses that 52 districts are Taliban controlled. The Afghan government’s failure to administer a district from the district center is a clear indication of Taliban control of a district.

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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