Taliban battles Afghan military for control of Kandahar City

After taking control of several key districts surrounding Kandahar City over the past two months, the Taliban has launched its offensive on the provincial capital. Kandahar City is now under siege.

The Taliban has used its rural insurgency strategy of taking control of remote districts to push closer to the provincial capitals. The rural areas are used to recruit and train fighters, raise funds, resupply, and launch attacks into neighboring districts and the population centers. This strategy was explained by Mullah Aminullah Yousuf, then the Taliban’s shadow governor for Uruzgan, in April 2016.

The Taliban began taking control of districts in 2014 after the U.S. transferred control of primary security responsibility to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Once a district was controlled by the Taliban, it would begin spreading its influence into neighboring districts.

The rural districts are vital to the Taliban’s insurgency. The U.S. military, including Generals Nicholson and Miller, the previous and last commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support Mission, has been dismissive of this Taliban strategy. Instead, the U.S. and NATO focused on a population-centric counterinsurgency, which allowed the Taliban to gain control of the rural districts.

The Taliban’s strategy is clearly seen in Kandahar province, where the provincial capital is now under direct threat of falling under Taliban control. The Taliban took control of four key districts – Arghandad, Dand, Shah Wali Kot, and Zhari – over the past three months. These four districts border the city from the north, west, and south. The Taliban has launched its assault of the city from these districts.

Kandahar City (and Kandahar district) and Daman district are contested, while Kandahar Air Field, which is crucial to provide close air support to Afghan forces in the province, is under government control. If the Taliban is able to seize control of Daman, Afghan forces will be hard pressed to repel the Taliban’s offensive.

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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