The Taliban march in northern Afghanistan gained momentum over the weekend with the capture of several districts by Afghan government forces, several hundred of whom fled to Tajikistan, officials said on Sunday.
More than 300 Afghan servicemen crossed Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province as Taliban fighters advanced towards the border, Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security said in a statement. Afghan troops crossed around 6:30 p.m. local time on Saturday
“Guided by the principles of humanism and good neighborliness,” the Tajik authorities authorized 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 biggest gains came in the northern half of the country, a traditional stronghold of the allied warlords of the United States who helped defeat them in 2001.
The Taliban now control about a third of the 421 districts and district centers in Afghanistan.
Taliban settle in major cities in northern Afghanistan after offensive
Gains in northeast Badakhshan province in recent days are mainly due to the non-combat insurgent movement, said Mohib-ul Rahman, a member of the provincial council. He blamed the Taliban’s successes on poor morale among troops who are mostly outnumbered and without supplies.
“Unfortunately, the majority of the districts have been left to the Taliban without any fighting,” Rahman said. In the past three days, 10 districts have fallen to the Taliban, including eight without a fight, he said.
Hundreds of Afghan army, police and intelligence soldiers surrendered their military outposts and fled to Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province, Rahman said.
Even as a security meeting was held early Sunday to plan to strengthen the perimeter around the city, some senior provincial officials were leaving Faizabad for the capital Kabul, he said.
At the end of June, the Afghan government resuscitated militias known for their brutal violence to support besieged Afghan forces, but Rahman said many militias in Badakhshan districts fought only half-heartedly.
The areas under Taliban control in the north are increasingly strategic, along the Afghan border with the states of Central Asia. Last month, the religious movement seized control of Imam Sahib, a town in Kunduz province across from Uzbekistan, and took control of a key trade route.
The incursions into Badakhshan are particularly important 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 part of the current High Council for National Reconciliation. . The assassinated former president also led the Jamiat-e-Islami of Afghanistan, which was the party of notorious anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by a suicide bomber two days before the September 11 attacks in the United States.
The Afghan 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 in previous surrenders have shown video of Afghan soldiers taking money for transport and returning home.
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