Afghanistan’s hard-line Taliban have captured two strategically located districts bordering Tajikistan in the northeast of the county.
Afghan officials in the remote northeastern province of Takhar said the insurgents were in control of the districts of Darqad and Yangi Qala on September 10.
Officials said the outnumbered Afghan forces withdrew from Darqad on September 10. A day before, the Taliban overran neighboring Yangi Qala after a week of relentless attacks. Afghan forces from the two districts have retreated into the nearby district of Khwaja Bahauddin.
“Our forces were forced to retreat because of fewer numbers,” Mohamad Azam Fazli, the head of Takhar provincial council, told Radio Free Afghanistan. “Nobody is paying attention to the deteriorating situation in the regions, so to prevent casualties to the government forces they were forced to retreat into the relative safety [of neighboring districts].”
But Mohammad Jawad Hijri, spokesman for Takhar’s governor, said the authorities have already sent reinforcements to Yangi Qala to reclaim it from the insurgents. “Our aim is to end the Taliban control in those areas. Our forces retreated to prevent large-scale civilian casualties,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.
Fazli, however, warned that without reinforcements the Taliban are likely to overrun more of Takhar’s 16 districts. Nearly two decades ago, Khwaja Bahauddin served as the headquarters of anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. The province was viewed as a key bastion of anti-Taliban resistance.
Now the Taliban appear confident to have made inroads into the region. On September 10, the Taliban confirmed they are in control of Yangi Qala and Darqad. Zabihulla Mujahid, a purported spokesman for the group, said their forces have captured all the military equipment in Darqad. In recent years, the two districts have changed hands between the Taliban and government forces several times.
Fighting in Takhar appears to be part of a larger Taliban offensive in northeastern Afghanistan. Last week, the Taliban attempted to overrun Kunduz, the largest city in the region and capital of a neighboring province by the same name.
On September 8 and 9, Afghan forces claimed to have recaptured the mountainous districts of Warduj and Yamgan in the neighboring province of Badakhshan. The Taliban had controlled the two districts since 2015.
Fighting is widely expected to spike across Afghanistan following the collapse of peace talks between the Taliban and U.S. officials this week.
On September 8, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had called off negotiations with the insurgents after a recent Taliban attack in the Afghan capital. Eleven Afghans and one U.S. service member were killed in the September 5 attack near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.