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Afghan Lawmakers Warn Key Province Might Fall To Insurgents

Afghan soldiers stand guard at the checkpoint in Khwaja Omari district of Ghazni Province on April 12.
Afghan soldiers stand guard at the checkpoint in Khwaja Omari district of Ghazni Province on April 12.

Afghan lawmakers have warned that a strategic province might fall into the hands of the Taliban if Kabul fails to act swiftly.

Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of the Afghan Parliament, told lawmakers that the security situation in the central province of Ghazni is alarming.

“We are gravely concerned about the worsening security situation in Ghazni,” he told lawmakers on April 16. “The government needs to address this situation seriously.”

Ibrahim said that after the fall of a district in Ghazni to the Taliban last week, the insurgents are now threatening to overrun the entire province. “The government needs to act swiftly,” he said.

Ghazni is midway between the capital, Kabul, and the country’s second city, Kandahar, in the south. Its fall would disconnect the major highway linking the two cities and would affect Kabul’s links with the western city of Herat.

Taliban militants overran Ghazni’s Khwaja Omari district last week. Afghan officials said the district governor, police, and intelligence officers were killed in the insurgents’ raid of the government compound in the district.

Ghulam Sakhi Amar, a member of Ghazni’s provincial council, said the attackers torched the district governor's office building after removing weapons caches.

Lawmaker Mohammad Ali Ikhlaqi represents Ghazni in the Afghan Parliament. He warned the parliament that a major crisis is brewing in Ghazni.

“We are on the verge of repeating Kunduz [when Taliban briefly overran the northern city in the fall of 2015] in Ghazni,” he said. “Unless the central government in Kabul pays serious attention, our province is in serious danger of falling into insurgent hands.”

The Taliban currently control or contest six of Ghazni’s 18 districts. Some regions, such as Andar district in the east, have witnessed long-running Taliban campaigns and local anti-Taliban uprisings.

In Kabul, the Defense Ministry is adamant that Afghan forces are capable of prevailing over insurgent threats. Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the ministry, says some 19 small and big offensives are currently underway to mitigate insurgent threats across the country.

“At the cost of our lives, we have decided to turn the tide in Ghazni,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

He says four recent operations in the districts of Ghazni, Andar, Khwaja Omari, and Zana Khan delivered the expected positive results.

The Taliban, however, contest the government’s claims. Violence in Ghazni and other front-line provinces typically flares up after the insurgents announce the beginning of their annual offensive in April or early May.

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