Several districts change hands as fighting rages in northern Afghanistan

The high-stakes game of horse trading ground control has continued in Afghanistan while the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks tolls in the US. The Taliban has overrun at least six districts in the northern Afghan provinces of Kunduz, Takhar, Farah, and Baghlan over the last two weeks, while the Afghan government claimed to have retaken three districts in Badakhshan, two of which were under Taliban control for four years.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has said it would “continue [its] Jihad” after President Donald Trump torpedoed a peace deal with the group.

Afghan officials confirmed the districts of Qala-i-Yangi, Darqad, and Chah Ab in Takhar, Dasht-i-Archi and Qala Zal in Kunduz, and Anar Dara in Farah have fallen to the Taliban during fighting over the past two weeks. Darqad and Dasht-i-Archi were two of 64 districts in 19 provinces to have been previously identified in July by the Afghan government to be be ungovernable from the district center due to the Taliban threat.

Over the past two weeks, the Taliban also claimed to have taken control of Gurzagahi Nur in Baghlan, Khwaja Ghar in Takhar, and Khanabad in Kunduz, but those reports could not be independently confirmed. These districts have previously been assessed by FDD’s Long War Journal as contested, and remain so. An Afghan official denied that Khwaja Ghar fell to Taliban, but heavy fighting has been reported there. However, Taliban claims of control must be taken seriously as the group has had a very good track record of accurately reporting on the status of districts it controls.

The Taliban has also claimed to have taken control of areas in Aybak district, which includes Samangan City, the capital of Samangan province. That Taliban claim also cannot be verified. The district’s status has been changed from government controlled to contested by FDD’s Long War Journal.

The Afghan military said it ousted the Taliban of the districts of Yamgan, Warduj and Kiran Wa Manjan in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan over the past week. Yamgan and Warduj districts have been under the thumb of the Taliban for four years, while Kiran Wa Manjan and it valuable lapis lazuli mines fell two months ago. The Taliban denied that it lost control of Warduj. The status of the three districts has been change to contested. Additionally, Afghan forces retook Qarghan district in Faryab three days after the Taliban seized it.

The Taliban has stepped up the fighting in the northern province over the past month. Kunduz City and Pul-i-Khurmi, provincial capitals of Kunduz and Baghlan respectively, have come under Taliban attack over the past two weeks. While the assaults on the two cities were ultimately repelled, fighting continues in the districts on the outskirts. During the same timeframe, the Taliban also launched an assault on Farah City int he western province of Farah.

The fighting was underway as the US and the Taliban were working to to sign an agreement that would give cover for the US military to withdrawal its forces from the country. President Trump even invited a Taliban delegation to come to Camp David to sign the deal once it was finalized. He canceled it after a US soldier was among 12 people killed in a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul.

The Taliban responded by saying that Trump’s actions “will harm America more than anyone else” and that the Taliban would “continue [its] Jihad” in Afghanistan.

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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