Taliban overruns district in central Afghanistan

The Taliban seized control of the district of Dawlat Shah in the eastern Afghan province of Laghman on May 19. The district is the fourth to fall to the Taliban in the past two weeks and the second in a province that borders Kabul, the ultimate prize for the Taliban in its efforts to reestablish its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

“Gulzar Sangarwal, a member of the Laghman provincial council confirmed to Khaama Press that the district has fallen to the Taliban,” Khaama Press reported. “[S]ecurity forced retreated from the region on Wednesday night, as they had been under the Taliban siege for several days”.

“[T]he government forces retreated from the region due to lack of supplies, support, and backup,” after the district center was “under the Taliban siege,” Khaama Press noted.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also noted the fall of the district and posted an image of the abandoned district center.

“This morning, the enemy soldiers escaped from the center, police headquarters and all defense posts of Dawlat Shah district of Laghman province, 2 tanks, one ranger, a lot of weapons and ammunitions were recovered,” Mujahid tweeted. “These areas came under the control of the Mujahideen …”

Like other provinces in eastern Afghanistan, the security situation in Laghman is dire. With the fall of Dawlat Shah, the Taliban now control one of Laghman’s five districts, and contest the other four, according to FDD’s Long War Journal‘s ongoing assessment of the security situation.

The Taliban currently threatens the security of 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, including Mihtarlam, the capital of Laghman, and controls 88 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts and contests another 214. The number of districts it controls and contests has doubled since 2018. [See LWJ reports, Mapping Taliban Control in Afghanistan, Taliban control in Afghanistan expands significantly since 2018, and Taliban has ‘surrounded’ five Afghan provincial capitals.]

The Taliban is following a classic guerrilla strategy of gaining control of or contesting areas outside of urban centers in order to prepare for the next phase: taking control of the cities. The Taliban is well positioned in Laghman, as well as Logar and Wardak, two other provinces that border Kabul, and its districts are heavily contested or controlled by the Taliban. The Afghan government lost control of Nirkh in Logar last week, and efforts to retake the district have failed.

The Taliban is laying the groundwork for a potential siege of Kabul, which likely would take place if the Taliban could first secure the south and east.

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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