Over the past few days, the Afghan Taliban has launched multiple offensives within the country.
On August 11th, Taliban forces overran the districts of Khwaja Umari and Ajristan located within the Ghazni Province. Afghan security forces, including Afghanistan’s elite commandos, were routed in the raids that saw hundreds of security personnel killed and survivors fleeing into the mountains for safety. The fall of Khwaja Umari has led to the Taliban of the Kabul-Kandahar highway, a major roadway that connects Kabul to Ghazni and the southern region of Afghanistan.
Days later, elements from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne division and the U.S. Airforce were deployed to the embattled capital of Ghazni province that shares the same name. Afghan troops have been fighting in the city since last Friday when thousands of Taliban insurgents launch a predawn raid to capture the provincial capital. Citizens claim that the Taliban controls the city, citing videos showing members of the Taliban occupying homes, establishing checkpoints, and casually walking around in the streets. Afghan and American commanders refute this notion, ensuring that the city remains under government control and that there are efforts underway to clear the city of Taliban insurgents that have a presence there.
Afghan officials also stated that the Taliban overran Camp Chinaya, Faryab province, killing at least 17 Afghan soldiers and capturing another 57 after seizing control of base. The base had undergone a 3-day siege from insurgents and finally fell after security forces reportedly ran out of food, water, and ammunition when reinforcements failed to arrive. The Taliban also captured 14 armored military vehicles, in addition to an unknown number of heavy guns, small arms, and ammunition.
The fresh Taliban assaults in the Ghazni and Faryab provinces were likely undertaken in order to increase the Taliban’s political leverage as peace negotiations with the United States currently get underway. The attack on Camp Chinaya was likely the result of local Taliban forces taking advantage of the distraction created by the conflict in Ghazni. With the successful capture of two districts and a military base, the Taliban has successfully shown that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
While the Taliban had an impressive weekend, some of their gains are likely to be short lived. Ghazni province holds a large part of the highway that connects Kabul with Kandahar, the two largest cities in Afghanistan. If the Taliban were to capture and hold Ghazni, Kabul would be cut off from a large part of the rest of the country. Considering the strategic significance of Ghazni province then, Afghan forces and the U.S. led coalition have a strong interest in controlling the region.
The U.S. led coalition has a proven track record of retaking fallen provinces and districts. The United States has already deployed more troops to assist the Afghan government in its fight to maintain Ghazni. This assistance will continue until the province has been recaptured.