Wednesday, June 9th 2021
Islamists on the rise
Taliban attacks shake Afghanistan
The NATO troops are withdrawing, the US wants to have left Afghanistan by September 11th. Meanwhile, reports of territorial gains by the radical Islamist Taliban are increasing. The security forces are giving up district after district.
This time there is talk of ten deminers killed. The unit of the British-American organization Halo Trust is said to have been attacked in northern Afghanistan, in the province of Baghlan. According to the Halo Trust, an “unknown armed group” broke into a camp on Tuesday evening (local time) and opened fire. So far, no one has confessed to the incident. While the Afghan Interior Ministry accused the militant Islamist Taliban, the Islamists said on Twitter that they had nothing to do with the incident. Baghlan had repeatedly become the site of intense fighting between terrorists and government forces in recent months.
Violence has recently increased significantly not just in the north, but throughout the country. Observers warn that the security situation in Afghanistan could worsen after the announced full withdrawal of US and other NATO troops. There are many indications of this, and unlike now in Baghlan, the Taliban are clearly the driving force behind numerous outbreaks of violence.
This was also the case on Tuesday, when district conquests by the militant Islamist group became known again. According to provincial councils, they were Daulatabad in Fariab province in the north of the country and Jaghatu in southeastern Gasni province. This means that since the western armed forces began to withdraw on May 1, 11 of the 400 or so districts in the 34 Afghan provinces have fallen to the Islamists. For comparison: According to a UN report, the Taliban were able to conquer five district centers in the entire previous year, four of which were recaptured by the government within a few days. According to the UN report, the Taliban control or struggle to control an estimated 50 to 70 percent of the country’s territory outside the cities.
Withdrawal after days of fighting
The balance of power seems to be changing. It is unclear how much the foreign troops are still supporting the government security forces. The provincial councils report that the Daulatabad district has been besieged by the Taliban for some time. Last week, however, the Islamists tightened the siege ring and the security forces in the district center could no longer be supplied. Police and army forces finally fled to a neighboring district on Tuesday night. The security forces withdrew from Jaghatu after around three days of fighting, parliamentarians said. A total of ten of the province’s 18 districts are now under Taliban control. At least two other districts are about to fall if the forces there are not supplied, warned officials.
The situation is now very complex, said Provincial Councilor Fasel Hak Mohammadi from Daulatabad. The soldiers would no longer obey the orders of their commanders, they would have lost their morale. As in the Kaisar district, which fell to the Taliban on Monday, the forces did not receive any of the support requested. In many places, the country’s government no longer appears to be militarily under control of the radical Islamists. The governor of Badghis Province recently blamed the Taliban for a car bomb attack that killed 11 civilians, including three children.
“Taliban want to keep up the military pressure”
The Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig from the Kabul think tank Afghanistan Analysts Network notes the current pace of the attacks. “It has been a long time since several districts were conquered in a few days,” he says. “The Taliban want to keep up the military pressure, employ government troops and perhaps demoralize them by overloading them.” For the government, taking over the district centers – the areas around these have mostly been in the hands of the Taliban for a long time – are a loss of control and sovereignty. But it is still more about peripheral areas.
Ruttig therefore does not yet want to see a “big march” by the Taliban to power. District centers would also be recaptured again and again. For significant military advances, it would be more about provincial capitals. A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense says there is a plan to remove the threats. In the recently lost areas, the situation will normalize very soon. It is unclear whether the US and other NATO troops are still contributing much to such a normalization. They are busy removing material from the country or – to the annoyance of many Afghans – destroying it on site.
US President Joe Biden has announced a complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan no later than September 11th, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, which were the starting point of the US intervention in Afghanistan. The US Army has already handed over several military bases to the Afghan armed forces. According to US data, the withdrawal of the military is about halfway through.