The Taliban has gone on the offensive in northern Afghanistan and is on the verge of taking control of Kunduz province if Afghan security forces cannot stay the siege of Kunduz City. Kunduz is one of eight provinces in danger of falling to the Taliban before U.S. forces are scheduled to completely withdraw in September.
The Taliban is currently in control of six of Kunduz’s seven districts and has surrounded Kunduz City. The Taliban massed outside of Kunduz City over the weekend and “seized the city’s entrance before dispersing throughout its neighborhoods,” The New York Times reported on June 20. Fighting inside the city is ongoing, according to Bilal Sarwary, an independent Afghan journalist.
The Taliban overran Kunduz City in 2015 and 2016, and held it for a short period of time, before U.S. airpower and special forces played a key role in helping the Afghan military eject the Taliban from the city.
The Taliban blitzed Kunduz’s districts, which have always been hotly contested, beginning in mid-June. On June 12, the Taliban took control of Aliabad. (There are reports that Afghan forces have re-entered Aliabab but this has not been confirmed at the time of publishing. Regardless, the security situation in Aliabad is highly unstable).
Then, between June 19 and June 21, the districts of Chahar Dara, Dasht-i-Archi, Imam Sahib, Khanabad, and Qala-i-Zal all fell under Taliban control.
In Imam Sahib district, the Taliban took control of Shirkhan Bandar, a dry port and border crossing with Tajikistan, “without a shot being fired,” according to Sarwary. This followed a pattern seen throughout many of the more than 50 districts taken by the Taliban since May 1: Afghan forces often are abandoning their bases, outposts and district centers without a fight.
In Chahar Dara district, Taliban fighters were filmed walking in the center of the district, in broad daylight without fear of reprisal by Afghan security forces.
Kunduz is not the only province in danger of falling to the Taliban. In Uruzgan, the Taliban controls five of six districts, and the provincial capital of Tarin Kot is surrounded and contested. The situation in Farah province is just as bad, with nine of the province’s 11 districts under Taliban control, and the other two contest. Farah City, the provincial capital, is also under direct threat from the Taliban, which overran the city in 2018. The security situation in other provinces, such as Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Takhar, and Zabul is equally dire.
The Taliban has seized control of 61 districts since the U.S. announced in mid-April it would withdrawal from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. The Afghan military has only been able to retake five of the districts. [For information on taliban gains over the weekend, see LWJ report, Taliban enters Kunduz City, seizes control of more than 20 districts.]
Many of the districts that have been taken by the Taliban were previously contested, however, a handful of the districts were previously under Afghan government control. So the number of districts controlled by the Taliban is increasing as the number of contested districts is decreasing.
The Taliban currently controls 134 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, while 178 districts are contested, according to FDD’s Long War Journal’s ongoing study of the security situation in Afghanistan. [See: Mapping Taliban Contested and Controlled Districts in Afghanistan.]
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