Taliban takes control of 30 districts in past six weeks

In the six weeks since the May 1 deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban has seized control of 32 additional districts, their reach spanning half of the country’s 34 provinces. The Afghan government has been unable to regain control in any of the 32 districts.

FDD’s Long War Journal has closely tracked the security situation Afghanistan’s districts and updates the status of districts as their control changes on a daily basis. [See Mapping Taliban Contested and Controlled Districts in Afghanistan.]

A June 14 report by TOLONews confirmed LWJ‘s independent assessments of 30 of the 32 fallen districts over the past six weeks (two additional districts went under Taliban control since the article was published).

According to data tracked by LWJ, the Taliban has actually overrun 37 district centers since May 1, however the Afghan military claims to have regained control of three of them (Khanabad and Aliabad in Kunduz, and Khash Rod in Nimruz) over the past several days. Bala Murghab, which fell in May, was retaken days later.

While the Taliban took control of the Washir district center in Helmand, LWJ currently assesses the district as contested, since the Afghan military maintains control of the large base known as Shoraback (formerly Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion).

Before May 1, the Taliban controlled 73 districts, according to LWJ‘s assessment. That number has risen to 106 today. The following districts have fallen to the Taliban since May 1, listed in alphabetic order by province. The districts are not confined to one or two geographical regions, but are spread out through all regions and 17 of the 34 provinces in the country:

  • Arghanjkhwah district in Badakhshan
  • Jawand and Bala Murghab districts in Badghis
  • Burka district in Baghlan
  • Zari district in Balkh
  • Pusht Rod and Lash o Joyan districts in Farah
  • Dawlat Abad and Qaysar districts in Faryab
  • Dih Yak, Jaghatu, Rashidan and Ab Band districts in Ghazni
  • Shahrak, Tolak and Saghar districts in Ghor
  • Oba district in Herat
  • Arghistan district in Kandahar
  • Dawlat Shah district in Laghman
  • Charkh district in Logar
  • Du Ab and Mandol districts in Nuristan
  • Gosfandi, Sayyad, and Sozma Qala districts in Sar-I-Pul
  • Chora, Gizab, and Khas Uruzgan districts in Uruzgan
  • Nirkh and Jalriz districts in Wardak
  • Shinkai and Arghandab districts in Zabul

Many of these districts have been contested for lengthy periods of time, with the Taliban recently laying siege to the district centers. However, one district – Saghar in Ghor – was under government control until it suddenly fell under the sway of the Taliban.

The Taliban appears to be using local tribal leaders and other influential figures to convince Afghan security personnel and government officials to either surrender or abandon these district centers. On June 12, TOLONews reported that the Ministry of Interior is arrresting “elders–or others–who act as mediators to negotiate between government forces and the Taliban– causing security force members to abandon their posts …”

On June 14, a Member of Parliament from Herat province said that “some districts were handed over to the Taliban in the west without resistance and their equipment was left for militants,” TOLONews reported.

The Taliban has taken advantage of the end of U.S. air support for Afghan forces, which kept the Taliban from taking provincial capitals, and is consolidating its control of remote districts. It is likely that the Taliban will launch the next phase of its offensive to take control of entire provinces, first in the south and east, while keeping up the pressure in the north and west, with the ultimate goal of taking control of Kabul. [See LWJ report, Predicting the coming Taliban offensive.]

The Taliban has actively established a program to convince security personnel to surrender and even join the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the name of the Taliban’s shadow government. In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, the group says that large numbers of Afghan government officials and security personnel, and in some cases, entire districts, are defecting to the Taliban thanks to its efforts.

Over the past few days, we are witnessing large number of troopers that formerly worked for the invaders surrendering to the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate in mass across the country. In some cases, batches of up to a hundred surrender to Mujahidin while bringing in all their military vehicles, weapons and ammunition, showcasing their absolute abhorrence for the Kabul administration with these actions.

And just as the Islamic Emirate has consistently published statements of amnesty and invitation to the opposition, it has practically shown that its arms of mercy and compassion are open to the troops and workers of the other side and holds no intention of seeking revenge, rather it gives precedence to saving their lives through the amalgamation process so that they may spend their lives in joy and assurance next to their own families and children.

Troop amalgamation – a sign of trust in the Emirate, Voice of Jihad, June 12, 2021

While the Taliban may be exaggerating the size of the defections, there likely is some truth in the statement given the dramatic fall of 32 districts over the past six weeks, and the Afghan government’s inability to retake hardly any of those districts.

This article was updated to include Khas Uruzgan and Gosfandi, which fell to the Taliban shortly after publishing on June 14, 2021.

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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