Report: Taliban Control More Territory Than At Any Point Since 2001
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban insurgency has spread through more of Afghanistan than at any point since 2001, according to data compiled by the United Nations as well as interviews with numerous local officials in areas under threat.
In addition, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan over the past two weeks has evacuated four of its 13 provincial offices around the country — the most it has ever done for security reasons — according to local officials in the affected areas.
The data, compiled in early September — even before the latest surge in violence in northern Afghanistan — showed that United Nations security officials had already rated the threat level in about half of the country’s administrative districts as either “high” or “extreme,” more than at any time since the American invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001.
That assessment, which has not been publicly released but is routinely shared by the United Nations with countries in the international coalition, appears at odds with the assessment of its American commander, Gen. John F. Campbell, in his testimony to Congress in Washington last week.
“The Afghan security forces have displayed courage and resilience,” General Campbell testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “They’re still holding. The Afghan government retains control of Kabul, of Highway One, its provincial capitals and nearly all of the district centers.”
Afghan officials in many districts currently under attack by the Taliban depict a dramatically different situation. Even Highway One, a ring road connecting all of Afghanistan’s main cities, has long suffered repeated Taliban ambushes and roadblocks in southern Afghanistan; over the past two weeks the insurgents repeatedly cut the highway in the Doshi and Baghlani Jadid districts of Baghlan Province — long an uncontested government stronghold. Few government officials now use the highway along much of its route.
In many districts that are nominally under government control, like Musa Qala in Helmand Province and Charchino in Oruzgan Province, government forces hold only the government buildings in the district center and are under constant siege by the insurgents.