Though the Afghan defense and security forces have made significant progress in recent weeks and pushed the Taliban insurgents back from several districts in the north of the country in an attempt to expand government controlled areas, findings by Kabul Now suggest that swaths of territories in 11 districts in the western provinces are under the Taliban control and the local government offices have been shifted from districts to the capitals of the provinces.
Over the past three years, the Taliban insurgents have gained control over a large swath of the western Farah province.
Belqis Roshan, who represents Farah province in the Afghan parliament, told Kabul Now that the district offices of Bakwa, Pusht-e-Koh, Shibkoh Qala, Khak-e-Safid, and Balabuluk have been moved to the capital of Farah as a result of Taliban’s active presence in these districts.
“It is a big shame for our government. The district governors cannot stay in the center of the six districts for Taliban have active presence,” she lamented.
According to Shah Mahmood Naeemi, who is a councilman of Farah province, the district governors are often staying in guest house of the governor and are just waiting for getting their salaries.
Masood Bakhtawar, deputy governor of the province, also admitted to Kabul Now that government offices were not operational in some districts of Farah.
A newly founded district, Murghab, 60 kilometers north of Ferozkoh, capital city of the western Ghor province has not become operational since its foundation on May 30, 2019. Naser Khazi, the governor of the province, said it was not operational because security forces who are supposed to ensure security of the district are still under training.
The district was founded after the Taliban increased their attacks on the north of Feroz Koh.
Moreover, the Taliban have planted bombs in roads connecting Chahar Sada and Pasaband district to Ferozkoh. As Ghulam Sakhi Jawid, a provincial councilman of the province, states it takes at least 45 days for governors of the two districts to return to the districts from the provincial capital by military helicopters. Military choppers—which are costly for a government that struggles with economic problems—are the only possible way for government officials and supplies to the districts.
“Most of areas in Chaharsada and Pasaband districts, except few villages near office of the district governors, are under the Taliban control,” Jawid said, adding that no district governor could dare to travel by road. They wait for military flights which fly very seldom.
The governor also confirmed that several district chiefs stayed in Ferozkoh due to planted roadside bombs, urging the central government to take measures for suppressing the Taliban.
Herat’s Shindand district was divided into two districts, namely Pusht-e-Koh and Zir-e-Koh districts, around two and a half years ago. The administrative complex of the two districts, however, have yet to be built.
Jilani Farhad, spokesperson for Herat governor, said that governors of the two districts are currently working inside administrative complex of Herat city. Zir-e-Koh is located around 140 kilometers and Pusht-e-Koh 157 kilometers from the capital city of the western Herat province.
According to members of Herat provincial council, the Taliban have a heavy presence in Zir-e-Koh district.
Although Herat is relatively secure than other western provinces, Toryalai Taheri, deputy chief of Herat provincial council, says centers of Zir-e-Koh and Pusht-e-Koh districts are under the control of the Taliban. “The government is not capable of making these two districts operational,” he asserted.
In another western province, Badghis, as the local officials state the battles have increased unprecedentedly this year in Bala Murghab district between Afghan defense and security forces and the Taliban. Except a military base, all other parts of the district are controlled by the Taliban.
“Government officials have made many promises to reclaim Bala Murghab district over past six months. But the promises have never been delivered,” said Abdul Aziz Beig, the chief of Herat provincial council.
He further said that most of the district’s residents have been displaced to Qalai Naw, capital city of the province, and to Herat city due to Taliban presence.
According to local officials, though district governor of Bala Murghab was appointed two months ago, he has not joined in the district due to security threats.
In areas under their control, the Taliban reportedly exercise sharia laws, rules, and punishments of their own, making the people’s harsh life harder.
A report issued by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said that as of January 31 last year, 2018, Afghan government controlled 229 districts which counts about 56.3 percent of the total districts in the country. On the other side, the Taliban exert control over 59 districts which is about 14.5 percent of all Afghanistan’s districts.
The remaining 119 districts, approximately 29.2 percent, remain contested.
In fresh military operations, after Afghan presidential elections held on September 28, Afghan officials said they have reclaimed several districts, including two districts in Badakhshan and one in Baghlan each controlled for more than three past years by the Taliban.