Taliban attacks Takhar’s provincial capital

The Taliban has launched an attack on Taluqan, the provincial capital of Takhar, and has been battling Afghan forces there and in several outlying districts over the past several days.

This is yet another example of the Taliban leveraging rural areas that it controls – areas that the US and coalition forces say do not matter – to threaten major population centers, including provincial capitals.

The fighting began on the evening of Sept. 29 in Baharak district and quickly spread to Taluqan. Afghan government officials optimistically claimed on Sept. 30 that the attack on Taluqan was repelled and 36 Taliban fighters were killed in airstrikes.

Yet two days later, the Afghan Ministry of Defense announced that it was conducting a “clearing operation” in the provincial capital, while “Taliban attacks in several parts of the city have caused heavy casualties,” TOLONews reported.

Oddly enough, the Taliban has not yet commented on its operations in Taluqan, but has commented on the fighting in Baharak. On Sept. 29, the Taliban claimed it seized control of the district as well as Chah Ab and Khwaja Ghar. Two days later reported it killed 21 Arbakis, or local tribal militia, during clashes in Baharak.

Fighting in Takhar has intensified over the pst month. On Sept. 11, Afghan officials confirmed the districts of Qala-i-Yangi, Darqad, and Chah Ab were seized to the Taliban.

Security in Takhar has dropped dramatically since the US began withdrawal combat troops from Afghanistan and began transferring control to Afghan security forces in the summer of 2013. Currently, more than half Takhar’s 17 districts are controlled (six, including Taluqan) or contested (four) by the Taliban, according to an ongoing assessment by FDD’s Long War Journal.

Over past two months, the Taliban has assaulted Farah City, Kunduz City and Pul-i-Khurmi, the provincial capitals of Farah, Kunduz, and Baghlan respectively. Many other provincial capitals have been attacks over the past four years.

While the Taliban has yet to hold a major population center for a prolonged period of time, it signals a shift in the fight from the rural areas to major population centers. The Taliban has been able to accomplish this by using the the rural areas under its control as launching pads.