Taliban enters Kunduz City, seizes control of more than 20 districts

The Taliban continues to drive Afghan security forces from districts throughout Afghanistan and has entered a northern city as Afghan forces are either surrendering or withdrawing from key administrative centers and security outposts. Twenty-one districts in nine provinces have fallen under Taliban control between June 18 and June 21, while Taliban forces have entered Kunduz City.

The Afghan security forces have so far been unable to halt the onslaught, particularly in the north, where the Taliban has the momentum and is dictating the pace of the fighting. Afghan military and police units are either abandoning the district centers, and in some cases military bases, or are surrendering them to the Taliban. Afghan forces have only been able to retake control of six districts since May 1.

The Taliban’s offensive in the north is especially troubling, as these provinces are home to many important Afghan government power brokers. If northern provincial capitals remain under Taliban threat and entire provinces are left in danger of falling to the Taliban, the Afghan government will be forced to redeploy forces from the south and east, or risk losing large regions in the north.

In Kunduz province, the Taliban “seized the [Kunduz City’s] entrance before dispersing throughout its neighborhoods,” while fighting has been reported throughout the city, The New York Times reported. 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. This weekend, Taliban also captured the districts of Khanabad, Dasht-i-Archi and Iman Sahib in Kunduz province.

In one northern province, Takhar, the Taliban seized 9 districts – Baharak, Bangi, Chal, Darqad, Hazar Somch, Khwaja Bahawuddin, Khuwaja Ghar, Namak Ab, and Yangi Qala – over the course of two days. Afghan forces were able to drive the Taliban from Bangi and Khuwaja Ghar on June 21. Fighting has been reported outside of Taloqan, Takhar’s provincial capital, as well as Maimana, the capital of the troubled Faryab province.

In Takhar’s district of Baharak, “Around 110 members of police, army & members of local uprisings surrendered to the Taliban” after being surrounded for three days, Bilal Sawary, an independent Afghan journalist reported. The Taliban executed the district head of the National Directorate of Security, which is hated by the Taliban, and the “commander of local uprisings,” or tribal fighters that organize to fight the jihadists. In Khwaja Bahauddin district, the Taliban overran “a large base and all its facilities,” according to Tariq Ghazniwal, a local Afghan journalist.

Also in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban took control of Chahar Bolak and Chimtal districts in Balkh province, Dahan-e-Ghori, Dushi, and Lawlash in Baghlan province, Dara-e-Suf Bala in Samangan province, and Mangajek, Faizabad and Khanaqa in Jawzjan province. The Afghan military retook the Dawlat Abab district center in Faryab on June 21, 2021; the district has been hotly contested..

In eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban seized Kharwar in Logar province, and in the southwest, Khash Rod in Nimroz.

The Taliban has seized control of more than 50 districts since the U.S. announced in mid-April that it would withdrawal from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. The U.S. military is no longer providing air support for Afghan forces as it focuses its efforts on withdrawing from the country. 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 (including three districts this weekend).

The Taliban currently controls 124 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, while 186 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].

Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 21, 2021 to reflect new developments. The Afghan military retook control of two district centers, while the Taliban gained control of three districts.

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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