The Taliban seized control of two districts in the northern province of Baghlan over the past two days. The move presages a coming Taliban offensive, which the goal is to reestablish its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by force.
The district of Baghlani Jadid (formerly Baghlan-e-Markzai) fell to the Taliban after it overran two Afghan military bases in the district. The Taliban claimed it seized control of the district, TOLONews reported. While it is difficult to independently confirm the Taliban’s claim of control, previous claims by the group have been proven to be accurate.
Two days ago, the Taliban also overran the district of Burka in Baghlan after fighting with Afghan security forces. “The local officials have moved their offices to other places in the district after the Taliban captured some parts of the district,” TOLONews reported. A spokesman for the province said that security forces “made a tactical retreat.”
Security in Baghlan has deteriorated significantly over the past several years. Of Baghlan’s 14 districts, three are controlled by the Taliban, 10 are contested, and only one is under government control, according to an ongoing study by FDD’s Long War Journal.
The security situation in Baghlan is a microcosm of all of Afghanistan. Of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, the Taliban controls 78 and contests another 193.
The Taliban has launched a string of attacks against Afghan security forces as the U.S. is beginning to withdraw its forces form the country. U.S. Central Command noted on May 4 that an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the withdrawal has been completed.
As the U.S. military begins its withdrawal, which is to be completed by Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attack on America, it has limited resources to help the Afghan military fend off Taliban attacks. The U.S. military has only intervened in Kandahar, where the Taliban are threatening the eponymous provincial capital, and in Helmand. In the district of Shah Wali Kot in Kandahar, the Taliban seized control of the Dahla Dam, the country’s second largest. The Taliban has launched numerous other small scale attacks throughout the country. In one such strike, the Taliban overran a military base in Ghazni City, captured 25 soldiers and continues to hold it to this day.
While many press outfits are describing the spike in Taliban attacks as an offensive, the reality is that the group’s current operations are a continuation of its violence against the Afghan government and people. A Taliban offensive will likely look much different, and include thousands of fighters massing to seize provincial capitals, perhaps several at once. The Taliban previous took control of Kunduz City (twice, Farah City, and Ghazni City) and held them for short periods of time even while U.S. forces were in country and supporting the Afghan military.