Food prices have skyrocketed in Jawand district of the western Badghis province as the Taliban have tightened grip on the district cutting all supply routes to it. Two weeks ago, a gunny of 50KG rice was sold for more than 5,000 afghanis and a gunny of 50KG flour was sold for more than 6,000 afghanis in Jawand, says Mohammad Ali, a resident of the district. “All the routes to Jawand district are shut and the Taliban have imposed a siege since 10 days ago making life more difficult for the locals.”
Jawand is the largest remote district of Badghis. The desperate Jawand residents will face a humanitarian disaster if the Taliban continue to maintain the siege on the area and the government forces fail to break it. A human disaster is immense to take place if the issue remains unaddressed, Mr. Ali told Kabul Now in an interview for this story.
The district center has been under a Taliban siege for a decade but worse of all now the Taliban have placed a siege on civilians who are in dire need of basic food for survival, says Hessamuddin Shams, the governor for Badghis.
Torture and forced displacement
The Taliban have planted landmines in all roads that connect Jawand district to commercial hubs. As part of their strategy, the group torture and even kill anyone who is caught supplying food materials to the district, according to locals in Jawand.
Forced by the Taliban siege, a large number of Jawand residents have left their home villages in the district and settled in Qala-e-Naw, the capital city of the province, and in the neighboring Herat province.
“I came to Herat for the prices of flour, rice, and cooking oil were as high as we could not afford to buy. The prices are lower in Herat but I’m jobless,” says Gul Mohammad, 45, who is now living in a tent in Shaidayee area of Herat along with his five children. The displaced man says that he will return to his home district once the siege is lifted.
According to the local authorities, the number of displaced people from the district is “very high” but they do not have a specific figure.
The Taliban militants are present in all parts of Jawand district except the district’s center, says Abdul Azizi Beg, a member of Badghis Provincial Council. He adds that people would smuggle to bring basic materials from the Taliban-controlled areas to the district center but the group has banned it too since 10 days ago.
The local residents claim that those who would dare to supply the basic materials for residents in Jawand’s district center have stopped doing so for they scare to be tortured or even killed by the Taliban if caught by the militants.
The Taliban have taken on a strategy of torture in Jawand district. To put more pressure on people and maintain a siege on the area, they torture and even kill anyone who dares to supply food materials to the district, says Abdul Salam, 42, a resident of Jawand.
“The Taliban do not allow basic materials to be transported to the district, for we the Jawand people resisted against the Taliban. The government must reach out to us, the situation is deteriorating.”
It is a “shameful” siege
The Taliban torture and even kill the people for supplying food, the First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Facebook. The siege of Jawand is another dishonor and shameful act of the Taliban, Saleh noted. He said efforts are underway to supply food and basic materials for Jawand residents.
Jawand district has a population of more than 180,000 with around 1,000 of them are currently under siege by the Taliban, according to the local authorities. The Taliban have cut the supply routes to Jawand for more than a decade earlier and the group has imposed economic sanctions against the district’s residents since three years ago, said Badghis governor. “The Taliban refused to end this economic siege in Jawand district despite repeated efforts through the mediation of members of the provincial council and the tribal elders.”
He says the continued economic siege will only harm the civilians who plead to the Taliban to lift their economic sanctions. The government forces are supplied with the needed material through the air and they occasionally distribute aid packages to residents of the district, the governor said.
Government plans to break the siege
As per account of the local residents, the Taliban have besieged the district center for its residents are supporting the government and they will not break it until the residents stop supporting the government, as a member of the provincial council put it.
“The civilians face many problems in Jawand district. The Taliban will set any foodstuff they find on fire. The Taliban continues its military pressure on Jawand until its center is fallen into their hands,” said Abdul Azizi Beig, the councilman.
Residents of Jawand criticized the Afghan government for hesitating to launch clearance operations across the supply routes to the district center, warning that it would widen the gap between the people and the government. MPs of the province and its members of the provincial council have repeatedly asked the central government to take action and break the siege but in vain.
The governor, however, told Kabul Now that they have a plan to break the siege.
Jawand shares borders with the neighboring provinces of Faryab and Ghor. Most parts of the district are controlled by the Taliban. In addition to this district, the province’s Bala Murghab district and the highway connecting Qala-i-Naw to Herat are also under Taliban control.