Much of Northern Afghanistan Falls to the Taliban
Five provincial capitals since August 6
Editor’s note: This often represents less a Taliban blitzkrieg than local fighters switching hats. The Taliban’s artillery and air force are something called negotiations.
The Afghan government had been losing ground to the Taliban for weeks, and provincial capitals were starting to be contested. This weekend, the floodgates opened and the Taliban rapidly overran a number of key cities, seizing no less than five provincial capitals.
With the military pushing into Helmand to try to chase the Taliban out of Lashkar Gah, a provincial capital they took over a week ago, the Taliban forces in the north seized a large amount of northern Afghanistan.
It took just a really bad weekend for the Taliban to end up seizing Sheberghan, Sar-e Pul, Taloqan, and even the strategically important city of Kunduz. Meanwhile, the Taliban fighting in Helmand spilled over into neighboring Nimruz, and captured the capital of Zaranj.
That’s a lot of losses in not much time. It’s not clear the Afghan government can even conceivably try to counter all these new losses, and instead seems to be focusing on a new propaganda push, focusing on selling the idea that losing five capitals in two days isn’t that big a deal.
Losing all these cities, including Kunduz and the already fallen Lashkar Gah, is already a big deal, and with the Taliban pushing on places like Herat, more could be lost. Afghan forces are off-balance and the Taliban is showing surprising confidence.
The US is throwing more air support behind the government, but so far that’s centered on Helmand, destroying a school and a health clinic and killing at least 20 civilians. That, needless to say, is not a productive counter-attack.
These aren’t just big losses but decisive ones. The government’s downplaying of the losses aside, some of the capitals fell with virtually no resistance, and where fighting did take place, the Taliban still won overwhelmingly.
That’s not to say that there is likely to be an immediate continuation of this string of losses. The Taliban tends to push most of its advantages over the weekend, and then consolidate for a little while.
The Taliban issued a statement later Sunday saying there had been no deal on a ceasefire yet, and warning the US against trying any further intervention. The Biden Administration has ordered B-52 bombers into the mix, and past comments suggest they’re going to continue to intervene to prevent a total Taliban victory.
U.S. air strikes
The pace of Taliban advances has caught government forces flatfooted, but they won some respite late Saturday after U.S. warplanes bombed Taliban positions in Sheberghan.
“U.S. forces have conducted several air strikes in defence of our Afghan partners in recent days,” Major Nicole Ferrara, a Central Command spokesperson, told AFP in Washington.
Sheberghan is the stronghold of notorious Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose militiamen and government forces were reportedly retreating east to Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh Province.
Dostum has overseen one of the largest militias in the north and garnered a fearsome reputation fighting the Taliban in the 1990s — along with accusations his forces massacred thousands of insurgent prisoners of war.
A retreat of his fighters dents the government’s recent hopes that militias could help the overstretched military.
Taliban militants have taken over Kunduz. This is the third time during the war that the Taliban have captured Kunduz. The map above shows an area that is still held by government forces.
It took them about a day of intense urban battles to capture the 5th largest city in Afghanistan. The remnants of the government forces, after fleeting battles, retreated to the airfield, where they can accumulate forces and try to recapture the city after receiving reinforcements.
During the day of fighting, from 50 to 70 civilians died there (not counting the losses of both sides in manpower) + at the end of the fighting, the city was also bombarded by American aircraft, as a result of which fires began in the city (the market area was especially badly damaged).
The army says it will fight for Kunduz and special forces are conducting operations to reclaim the city. The Taliban claim to have complete control over Kunduz.
Source: Colonel Cassad