On June 24, Afghan news outlet TOLO reported that the Taliban had seized control of the centers of seven additional districts across five Afghan provinces.
According to TOLO, further fighting took place in the cities of Kunduz, Taluqan, and Maimana, three provincial capitals. The news agency said that 300 soldiers had been deployed in each of the fallen district centers, though some of them retreated.
With the seizures, the Taliban is now estimated to control 80 of the country’s 370 districts. This is an increase from the 50 districts cited by the UN Envoy for Afghanistan.
Interviews conducted by TOLO suggested that many Afghans regarded the central government as apathetic to its losses. An Afghan MP, Assadullah Shahbaz, was quoted as saying that, “In the present government, those who made sacrifices and worked hard haven’t been appreciated, they weren’t encouraged […] the only people appreciated are the ones sitting in luxury offices.”
A second MP, Arif Rahmani, described the Afghan government as being fundamentally unprepared for the Taliban strategy: “The [government] thought that the Taliban would try to take over eight strategic districts, but they changed their tactics and instead launched attacks on 200 fronts.”
The Taliban have escalated their attacks following the beginning of American withdrawal from the conflict. According to a February 2020 peace agreement signed between the United States and the insurgent group in Doha, Qatar, the United States was obliged to begin its withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 2021. In April, President Joe Biden announced that the United States and NATO would fully withdraw by September; the Pentagon later indicated that the withdrawal might be complete by July, although it has since backtracked.
In the same agreement, the Taliban was required to cease violence and seek accommodation with the Afghan government, renounce its support for terrorism, and distance itself from Al Qaeda, its ally. So far, the militant group has not honored its commitments; instead, it has continued the war, apparently regarding the U.S. absence as an opportunity to make up for lost ground.
Moreover, while the Taliban has made rhetorical gestures of condemning terrorism, it has not broken its ties with Al Qaeda, and has continued to launch terror attacks on its own. The bombing of a Hazara girls’ school in mid-June, resulting in the deaths of more than ninety children, has not been claimed by any organization, but is strikingly reminiscent of earlier Taliban attacks.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest.