Taliban overruns another district in the Afghan north

The Taliban successfully overran the district of Tala Wa Barfak in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan today. Two other Afghan districts have been seized by the Taliban in the past two weeks, and several more have been threatened. All of that occurred as a Department of Defense spokesperson claimed last week that the Taliban is “desperate” and “losing ground.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the “Talaw Barfak [sic] district center and police HQ” in Baghlan province was overrun “by Mujahidin at 3pm today, multiple gunmen killed, large quantities of weapons, equipment and vehicles seized.”

The Afghan press has not yet confirmed Mujahid’s claim, however similar Taliban reports have been highly accurate in the past. A report at TOLONews indicated that the Taliban had surrounded the district center and cut off all roads leading to it, which blocked government reinforcements from reaching the center.

FDD’s Long War Journal previously assessed the district as contested, as it has changed hands multiple times over the past three years and Taliban forces have been poised on the outskirts waiting to pounce on the center. The Taliban seized Tala Wa Barfak on Sept. 30, 2015, but the Afghan military retook it six days later. The Taliban again overran the district on March 1, 2017, but Afghan forces reportedly regained control days later.

Tala Wa Barfak is the third district to fall to the Taliban in the past two weeks. Teh Taliban overran Qala-i-Nal in Kunduz on April 28, and Kohistan in Badakhshan on May 3. The Afghan military claims it retook Kohistan two days later, but the Taliban denied the report and said it beat back the Afghan offensive.

The loss of the three districts took place as Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White described the Taliban as “desperate” on May 3 because it is “losing ground.” Additionally, White said that over the last year, “things are moving in the right direction.”

However, the data from Afghanistan does not agree with White’s assessment. The Taliban now outright controls 42 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts and contests another 201 – staking claiming to nearly 60 percent of the country, more than at any point since the US invaded the country and ousted the Taliban in 2001, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

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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