Afghan Insurgents Gaining as Trump Rolls Out War Plan

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But the Taliban now control or dominate 48 of the country’s roughly 400 administrative areas, the most they have held since being ousted from power in 2001, based on data provided by the United States military to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The inspector general’s last quarterly report to Congress listed 45 such districts, based on data through the end of June, and the Taliban have made a net gain of three districts since then.

Among the most recent to fall was Jani Khel, in Paktia Province close to the eastern border with Pakistan, which the insurgents took on Aug. 10. That district has changed hands at least three times since 2016 and twice just this month, underlining its importance to both sides as a transit area for the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction, to and from its Pakistani sanctuaries. Government officials claim that neither side really controls the district, where fighting continues.

On Aug. 13, the Taliban took the center of Ghormach District in Faryab Province in the north, although the Afghan National Army retains control of a base in the district, which is under Taliban siege and being resupplied by helicopter. “If reinforcements don’t reach them, the situation will get badly worse,” said the district governor, Abdullah Waqif, who estimated that as many as 500 Afghan soldiers were at the base.

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The Taliban Still Control Large Parts of Afghanistan and ISIS Has Established a Foothold

Afghanistan continues to struggle to maintain security in the face of the Taliban insurgency and a growing Islamic State presence.


On Monday, a government spokesmen said the soldiers were still trapped there, but that heavy Afghan airstrikes had killed 80 insurgents and destroyed a dozen of their motorcycles.

On Aug. 6, what was asserted to be a combined force of Taliban and Islamic State militants overran the strategic valley of Mirza Olang in Sar-e-pul Province in the north. Hundreds of the valley’s Shia residents fled amid claims that the insurgents, who are Sunni, were beheading Shias and enslaving and raping women. The government claimed Monday that its forces had retaken the valley.

In a report condemning the violence, the United Nations accused the insurgents of killing 36 people who were civilians or had put down their weapons, but said no evidence of rape or beheadings had been found.

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Over the past month, Taliban insurgents also took the districts of Taiwara, in the western province of Ghor, and Kohistan in Faryab Province, but government forces have since retaken both of them, according to local officials.

The tempo of fighting has greatly increased throughout Afghanistan this year, judging from the numbers of civilians and combatants killed. In the first half of 2017, civilians were dying at a rate of nine a day, according to United Nations data.

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A senior United States military official said an average of 20 Afghan National Army soldiers were being killed each day this month. Separately, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Interior, Najib Danish, cited statistics showing that 1,302 police officers had been killed from March 21 through Aug. 16, about nine a day.

And Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction statistics showed that another 181 Afghan local police officers were killed over a similar period, about two a day. Taken together, the figures suggest that an average of 31 Afghan combatants are being killed daily, not counting insurgents, along with nine civilians.

Last year, 6,000 Afghan soldiers were estimated to have been killed, according to senior military officials. That is far more than the roughly 3,500 fatalities sustained by American and coalition forces during the entire war, and Afghan soldiers’ reported death rate is running even higher this year.

Last week saw the 11th American soldier die in Afghanistan this year. Most of those killed have been Special Forces or Special Operations soldiers. Of the 8,800 American soldiers in the country, along with 6,575 allied and NATO troops, about 3,300 are believed to be Special Operations fighters.

Reporting was contributed by Helene Cooper in Bagram, Afghanistan; Taimoor Shah in Kandahar, Afghanistan; Najim Rahim in Kunduz, Afghanistan; and Jawad Sukhanyar in Kabul.


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