Taliban advances on Herat City

The security situation in Herat City has deteriorated over the past several days, and the city is in danger of falling to the Taliban.

The Taliban is fighting inside Herat City, has seized control of a key district, and has taken control of the road that connects the provincial capital with the airport.

On July 30, the Taliban retook control of “the strategic Karakh district,” which is east of the city, Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary reported. The Taliban previously seized control of Karakh on July 8. The government retook control on July 23 and held it for one week.

In Guzara district, which is directly south of Herat City, the Taliban controls key villages. However, the Herat International Airport remains under government control, which means the district is contested. All flights at the airport were canceled, according to TOLONews. The Taliban currently is “in control of the road between Herat city and the airport,” Sarwary reported. The Malan Bridge, one of the two major crossings on the river south of Herat City, is “one of the frontlines,” according to TOLONews.

If the Taliban is able to maintain control of the road to Herat International Airport to the airport and lay siege to it, the Afghan military will have a difficult time maintaining control of Herat City. The airport is a key lifeline for Herat City, as the Taliban controls nearly all of the districts in the province, and thus the roads to the city highly contested.

Heavy fighting has been reported in Injil district, which encompasses Herat City. Both Herat City and Injil are now contested. The Taliban is able to gain access into Herat City by contesting Injil and Guzara.

The situation in Herat province is dire. The Taliban currently controls 13 of the province’s 16 districts, and the Taliban is actively battling for control of the provincial capital, according to an ongoing assessment of the security situation by FDD’s Long War Journal [See Mapping Taliban Contested and Controlled Districts in Afghanistan.]

Herat City is not the only provincial capital under seize. The Taliban is also pressing offensives in Kandahar City and Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. The Taliban has taken control of a police district in Lashkar Gah, and fighting inside Kandahar City is reported daily. In all the Taliban is threatening 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.

The Taliban offensive is tying up key Afghan military assets, including its air force, Commandos and Special Forces. These military assets have proven to be most effective at keeping the Taliban from seizing cities. These units are being ground down by continual fighting. By attacking multiple cities at the same time, the Taliban is forcing the Afghan military to disperse its forces and water down its combat power.

The Afghan Air Force has been hit especially hard, as “One-third of the Afghan Air Force’s aircraft are inoperable,” according to Reuters. The withdrawal of U.S. air assets, which provided more than 80 percent of the combat power to battle the Taliban, and civilian contractors to provide maintenance, along with combat attrition, has put an enormous strain on the Afghan Air Force.

The loss of a provincial capital would be a major blow to the Afghan government and a massive victory for the Taliban, which is fighting to restore its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

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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