Security in the southeastern Afghan province of Zabul continues to deteriorate as the Taliban presses it offensive there. The Taliban claimed its fighters overran the alternate Arghandab district headquarters in the southeastern province of Zabul over the weekend, and killed the local chief of police and senior intelligence officer.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reported on his Twitter feed on Nov. 9 that the “transitional DHQ of Arghandab Zabul located in Afghanano area” was captured. The Taliban also issued an official statement on its website, Voice of Jihad, claiming that it successfully “carried out coordinated attacks on Arghandab district administration center, police headquarter and intelligence directorate,” and killed the district chief of police and the local head of the National Directorate of Security.
While the Taliban’s claim of overrunning the new Arghandab district center was not confirmed in the Afghan press, the jihadist group has accurately reported on such events in the past. Additionally, the Taliban is known to have a strong presence in the district.
Arghandab was one of 64 districts that were identified as “either operating outside the premises of the districts or have been relocated,” TOLONews reported in June of this year. In the case of Arghandab, the administrative center was relocated to another part of the district, as the Taliban controlled the original headquarters.
Security in Zabul has worsened over the past several months as the Taliban has pressed its operations there. Of Zabul’s 11 districts, five are controlled by the Taliban, five are contested, and only one is controlled by the Afghan government, according to an ongoing assessment by FDD’s Long War Journal.
In addition to Arghandab, the Taliban seized control of the districts of Mizan and Shahjoy since the end of July. The Taliban has also launched numerous attacks on police and military outposts throughout the province, including in the capital of Qalat, and bombed a hospital in the city.
Zabul province is a known haven for al Qaeda, which remains closely allied with the Taliban to this day. A recent report by the United Nations identified Zabul as one of three provinces “with the most significant numbers” of al Qaeda operatives present (the other two are Badakhshan and Kunar).
Al Qaeda has long viewed Zabul as friendly territory. While the U.S. drone campaign that targeted and killed al Qaeda leaders and operatives in Pakistan heated up in 2009 and 2010, Osama bin Laden advised the group to relocate key commanders and family to the provinces of Nuristan, Kunar, Ghazni, and Zabul. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Bin Laden advised relocation of some leaders to Afghanistan due to drone strikes in Waziristan.]