News / Asia

    Taliban Claims Large Swath of Afghan Territory During 2015

    Taliban militants, right, who were arrested by Afghan border police, stand during a presentation of seized weapons and equipment, Jalalabad, Dec. 29, 2015.
    Taliban militants, right, who were arrested by Afghan border police, stand during a presentation of seized weapons and equipment, Jalalabad, Dec. 29, 2015.
    Ayaz Gul

    The Taliban claims it gained control of about 10 percent of Afghanistan during the past year, and says it still holds most of the captured territory.

    A senior Afghan defense official did not discuss the Taliban claims, but said Saturday that Afghan counter-terrorist squads raided a Taliban-controlled prison and freed scores of inmates in Helmand province, an area that both the Taliban and the Kabul government have struggled to control.

    The Afghan official said government security forces carried out the operation at the prison without ground support from NATO units, and only limited intelligence and planning support by the U.S. military.

    The Taliban said its temporary capture of the key northern city of Kunduz in September was the most significant action in 2015. The group's "review of jihadi progress in 2015," sent to reporters Saturday, claimed the past 12 months were "one of the most successful and inspiring" periods for its fighters in the past 15 years — since before American forces and other coalition troops arrived in Afghanistan to oust a Taliban administration in 2001.

    The past year "was fraught with numerous significant and sometimes unanticipated achievements," the Taliban review contended.

    The Taliban claims to control 34 of nearly 400 districts across Afghanistan, in more half of the country's provinces. Afghan and Western security officials quoted this week in The Washington Post estimated the Taliban's influence was even greater; they said the insurgents either control or have a significant presence in roughly 30 percent of the districts.

    The Taliban "progress review" said insurgents have been active in a long list of Afghan provinces — Farah, Badghis, Ghor, Panjshir, Badakhshan, Baghlan, Helmand, Herat, Kunduz, Nuristan, Sar-e Pul, Paktika, Takhar, Logar, Jowzjan, Faryab, Kandahar and Ghazni.

    At the beginning of 2016, the Taliban said, battlefield advances have put its fighters closer to several provincial centers, and claimed Taliban fighters are only "a stone's throw away" from the capitals of Baghlan, Helmand and Faryab provinces.

    With support from U.S. and other NATO military units, Afghan security forces struggled for weeks to retake control of Helmand, the southern province where most of Afghanistan’s poppy crop is grown. The Taliban claims it either controls or threatens to control 10 of Helmand's 14 districts.

    The government's deputy defense spokesman, Dawlat Waziri, declined to discuss the Taliban claims in detail when he met with reporters Saturday in Kabul.

    “We should all accept that there is a war going on in Afghanistan. Our security forces, including army, police and intelligence personnel, are getting killed every day while undertaking heroic acts of defending their country,” Waziri said, urging critics to respect these sacrifices.

    Waziri confirmed that Afghan army commandos freed about 60 people overnight from a Taliban prison in Helmand, which borders Pakistan. Those released included security personnel who had been held hostage by the insurgents.

    NATO confirmed that Afghanistan's national counterterrorism unit, the 1st Ktah Klas (KKA), carried out the raid Friday night and early Saturday in northeastern Helmand.

    A NATO statement said the Afghan Air Force's Special Mission Wing conducted a helicopter assault to free the prisoners in the Nahr-e-Saraj district without suffering any casualties.

    "U.S. forces provided only limited intelligence and planning support to this operation," a coalition spokesman said. "No U.S. forces were on the ground during the operation."

    During more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan, NATO forces have worked to drive Taliban fighters from their traditional heartland in Helmand province. Overall, however, a recent United Nations assessment showed the Taliban expanded its influence in parts of Afghanistan last year that had not seen any insurgent activity since 2001.

    Through November, about 7,000 members of the Afghan security forces were killed during 2015, and 12,000 wounded — a 26 percent increase in the total number of dead and wounded in all of 2014, The Washington Post reported, quoting a Western official with access to recent NATO statistics.

    A spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission said approximately 6,500 civilians were killed or wounded by insurgent attacks in 2015.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Battle173 from: USA
    January 02, 2016 7:59 PM
    Helmand has always been a volatile province. Kandahar will likely be next. Northeastern Afghanistan is just as bad, but I highly doubt there's anyone to resist the Taliban there, which is why we aren't hearing about its "takeover." If you want to read a great book about U.S. troops taking ground, check out "To Quell The Korengal." Now that'll give you some perspective!

    by: Curly from: USA
    January 02, 2016 10:40 AM
    Afghanistan was almost won by the end of 2008 then Obama was elected and he all but abandoned it. He would have abandoned it except it appears that it would look bad on him. Well he has one more year to give it back to the terrorist and it will look bad on him and his administration.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    January 02, 2016 7:54 AM
    IF only the US and NATO hadn't abandoned their attempt to win the Afghan war in 2009 and then switched to a strategy of hiding behind 30ft walls and bombing the terrorists to degrade and decimate their leadership, [and if only], after the US and NATO had given-up on winning the Afghan war after 14 years, the terrorists in Afghanistan (and the rest of the world) hadn't known they had become a world power with the power to conquer whole countries and form a Caliphate, [then], the terrorists may have sought peace to end their Afghan war?

    But now? .. Because the US and NATO didn't win their Afghan war (and the Iraq war), they encouraged all the terrorists worldwide to try and take over whole countries now, and they now attack and punish those countries that militarily oppose them doing it? .. if only? .. some countries could defeat the terrorists? .. how many years has it been since the US and NATO tried and failed to defeat the terrorists now?
    In Response

    by: Tom from: NYC
    January 02, 2016 11:18 AM
    VOA speaks most loudly when it speaks objective truths.

    "urging critics to respect these sacrifices"

    "The hostages included security personnel."

    These are not objective statements. Please do better, VOA, in the name of good Americans.
    In Response

    by: Tony from: Canada
    January 02, 2016 10:56 AM
    All any terrorist group has to do to find out U.S. strategy is watch the news or read on the internet.

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