In NE Afghanistan, Taliban’s March Areas From Fleeing Soldiers

KABUL, Afghanistan — Officials reported Sunday that the Taliban’s march in northern Afghanistan gained traction overnight with the seizure of numerous districts from fleeing Afghan soldiers, including several hundred who fled across the border into Tajikistan.

According to Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security, more than 300 Afghan military troops crossed from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan region while Taliban fighters pushed toward the border. Saturday about 6:30 p.m. local time, Afghan forces crossed across.

The Tajik authorities permitted the retreating Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to enter into Tajikistan, guided by the values of humanism and good neighborliness, according to the statement.

The Taliban have made significant gains in Afghanistan since US President Joe Biden proclaimed the end of the country’s “forever war” in mid-April. But it is in the northern half of the nation, a longtime bastion of the US-allied warlords who helped defeat them in 2001, that they have made the most substantial inroads.

The Taliban currently control over a third of Afghanistan’s 421 districts and district centers.

According to Mohib-ul Rahman, a provincial council member, the victories in northeastern Badakhshan province in recent days have mainly come to the insurgent movement without a struggle. He attributed the Taliban’s victories to the forces’ low morale, which he attributed to the fact that they were outmanned and lacked resupply.

“Unfortunately, the Taliban have taken over the bulk of the areas with no resistance,” Rahman added. Ten districts have fallen to the Taliban in the previous three days, eight without a fight, he added.

According to Rahman, hundreds of Afghan army, police, and intelligence personnel abandoned their military positions and fled to Faizabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan.

Some top provincial officials were departing Faizabad for Kabul, he claimed, even as a security conference was conducted early Sunday to plan the tightening of the cordon surrounding the capital.

The Afghan government revived groups with a reputation for extreme brutality to help the besieged Afghan forces in late June, but Rahman claimed that many of the militias in the Badakhshan areas only put up a half-hearted battle.

The Taliban-controlled territories in the north, which run along Afghanistan’s border with Central Asian countries, are becoming increasingly crucial. Last month, the religious organization seized control of Imam Sahib, a town in Kunduz province on the border with Uzbekistan, and acquired control of a vital trade route.

The advances in Badakhshan are especially important since it is the home province of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was assassinated in 2011 by a suicide bomber. Salahuddin Rabbani, his son, is currently a member of the High Council for National Reconciliation. The assassinated former president also commanded Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e-Islami, the anti-Taliban party of Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by a suicide bomber two days before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

The Interior Ministry said Saturday that the losses were just temporary, although it was unclear how they would recover control.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, acknowledged the districts’ fall and said that majority of them fell peacefully. During past Taliban surrenders, a film was released showing Afghan troops receiving transportation money and returning to their families.

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