The Taliban seized control of the Afghan National Army’s 217th Pamir Corps headquarters, as well as airports in Kunduz City and Shibirghan, as their onslaught in the north continued on Wednesday. The group is now consolidating recent gains in Kunduz and Jawzjan provinces, where these strategic holds will deny the Afghan military the ability to counterattack.
Afghan security forces retreated to the Pamir Corps headquarters and the airport south of Kunduz City on Aug. 8 after the Taliban overran the provincial capital. The Afghan troops held out for three days before surrendering. The Taliban seized all weapons, ammunition, vehicles and other military equipment at the at the Pamir Corps headquarters.
In Jawzjan province, the Taliban captured the airport outside of the capital of Shibirghan today, and netted a large quantity of weapons, including U.S.-supplied Humvees, Ranger pickups, small arms, and ammunition. The Taliban seized control of Shibirghan on Aug. 7. The remaining Afghan forces retreated to the airport and held out for four days before surrendering.
The loss of the Pamir Corps headquarters is a major blow to the morale of the Afghan National Army, as it marked the first corps command to fall since the Taliban initiated its offensive on May 1. More importantly, the loss of the headquarters and the airports in Kunduz City and Shibirghan will deny the Army military the ability to launch counterattacks in the two provinces and relieve the siege of the key city of Mazar-I-Sharif in nearby Balkh province. The Taliban controls the roads leading to these two cities, and the only way for the Afghan military to retake them is by reinforcing the units based at the airports via air.
The Taliban’s offensive is designed to deny the Afghan government its key base of support in the north, while battling Afghan forces in the south and east. If these key regions can be secured, the Taliban will advance on the capital of Kabul.
In all, nine of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban in the past five days. Seven of them are in the north, while two are in the west. On Aug. 6, the capital of the southwestern province of Nimruz, Zaranj, was lost after the governor and security forces abandoned the city. The next day, on Aug. 7, the Taliban seized control of Shibirghan, the capital of the northern province of Jawzjan. The following day, on Aug. 8, the Taliban overran the capitals of Kunduz, Sar-i-Pul, and Takhar provinces, also in the north. On Aug. 9, the Taliban took control of Aybak in Samangan. The Taliban seized control of Farah City in Farah province, Pul-i-Khumri in Baghlan province, and Faizabad in Badakhshah, the former headquarters of the Northern Alliance, on Aug. 10.
The Afghan government and military have yet to answer the Taliban’s offensive. The government has resorted to clinging to cities and a handful of key districts – and still completely under water, has been unable to break the Taliban’s momentum.
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