Security Forces Flee as Districts in Northern Afghanistan Fall for Taliban

The Taliban’s march through northern Afghanistan gained momentum overnight with the capture of several districts from fleeing Afghan troops, hundreds of whom had crossed the border into Tajikistan, officials said Sunday.

More than 300 Afghan soldiers crossed from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province as Taliban fighters advanced toward the border, Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security said in a statement. Afghan troops crossed at about 6:30 p.m. local time on Saturday

“Guided by the principles of humanism and good neighborly relations,” Tajik authorities allowed the retreating Afghan national defense and security forces to enter Tajikistan, the statement said.

Since mid-April, when US President Joe Biden announced the end of the “eternal war” in Afghanistan, the Taliban have made progress across the country. But their main gains were in the northern half of the country, a traditional stronghold of the US allied warlords who helped defeat them in 2001.

The Taliban now control about a third of all 421 districts and district centers in Afghanistan.

Gains in northeastern Badakhshan province in recent days have largely benefited the insurgent movement without a fight, said Mohib-ul Rahman, a member of the provincial council. He attributes the Taliban’s success to the poor morale of the troops, who are usually outnumbered and without supplies.

“Unfortunately, most of the districts were left to the Taliban without a fight,” Rahman said. In the past three days, ten districts fell to the Taliban, eight without a fight, he said.

Hundreds of Afghan military, police and intelligence forces surrendered their military outposts and fled to Badakhshan’s provincial capital, Faizabad, Rahman said.

Even when a security meeting was held early on Sunday to strengthen the perimeter around the capital, some senior provincial officials left Faizabad for the capital, Kabul, he said.

In late June, the Afghan government revived militias with a reputation for brutality to support beleaguered Afghan forces, but Rahman said many of the militias in Badakhshan districts fought only half-heartedly.

The areas in the north under Taliban control are becoming increasingly strategic and run along the Afghan border with Central Asian states. Last month, the religious movement took control of Imam Sahib, a town in Kunduz province opposite Uzbekistan, and took control of a major trade route.

The invasions of Badakhshan are particularly significant as it is the home province of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011.

His son, Salahuddin Rabbani, is a member of the current Supreme Council for National Reconciliation. The assassinated former president also led the Afghan Jamiat-e-Islami, the party of famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by a suicide bomber two days before the 9/11 attacks in America.

The interior ministry released a statement on Saturday saying the defeats were temporary, although it was not clear how they would regain control.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the fall of the districts and said most were without a fight. The Taliban have shown videos of Afghan soldiers taking transport money and returning to their homes in previous surrenders.

(AP)

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