Another northern Afghan district falls to the Taliban

Another Afghan district has slipped from the government’s control and fallen to the Taliban. Today, the Taliban overran Tala Wa Barfak district in the northern province of Baghlan after besieging it for months.

In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, the group said that its fighters “managed to take complete control of Tala wa Barfak district center, police HQ and all security check posts after attacks that began [in the] early morning hours today.”

“The bodies of 3 police[men] killed in the fighting are still laying on the battleground while their weapons have been seized and 13 other gunmen detained,” the Taliban claimed, adding that Afghan forces had retreated. The Taliban also said it was “engaged in heavy clashes with enemy forces in Kanda Sang area of Doshi district.”

The fall of Tala Wa Barfak was confirmed by the Afghan press. “Tala Wa Barfak district governor Faiz Mohammad Amiri said [the] Taliban seized the district at around 3am on Tuesday,” TOLONews reported.

According to the district governor, the jihadists attacked “from many directions and cut all the roads to the district.”

The security situation in Baghlan has been difficult to assess. But the Taliban has been very active in Baghlan and the neighboring province of Kunduz.

FDD’s Long War Journal estimates that two of Baghlan’s 15 districts are under Taliban control (Tala Wa Barfak and Dahana-i-Ghuri) and another two, including the provincial capital, are contested (Pul-i-Khumri and Baghlan-i-Jadid). The Taliban used these districts to threaten the capital city of Pul-i-Khumri during the summer of 2016.

Tala Wa Barfak is the second district to fall to the Taliban in the past two weeks. On Feb. 21, the group seized Shorabak district in Kandahar, where al Qaeda is known to have operated training camps.

The Taliban has increased its footprint in Afghanistan. FDD’s Long War Journal has identified 44 Afghan districts under the Afghan jihadist group’s control, and another 56 that are heavily contested. The number of Taliban controlled and influenced/contested districts has risen from 70 in Oct. 2015 to 100 this month.

This assessment has been verified by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which noted last month that the Afghan government “has lost territory to the insurgency” and “district control continues to decline.” According to SIGAR, the Afghan government controls or influences just 52 percent of the nation’s districts today compared to 72 percent in Nov. 2015. An estimated 15 percent of Afghanistan’s districts have slipped from the government’s control over the past six months. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Afghan government ‘has lost territory to the insurgency’.]

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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