The newly appointed governor for the central Ghor province, Abdul Zahir Faizzadah, promises to curb what local officials term as growing Taliban strength in the province. The Taliban militants continue to pose threats against Ferozkoh, the capital city of Ghor province. On Thursday, April 01, the group ambushed the convoy of the newly appointed governor, leaving six people including five security forces wounded.
The Taliban seized two government-owned vehicles after they attacked the governor’s convoy, according to Hassan Hakimi, a civil activist in Ghor.
The Taliban has focused on a military campaign in Ghor province recently. Over the last few weeks, they launched attacks on Taywara, Dawlat Yar, Saghar, and even on Ferozkoh, local authorities say. The militants have tightened a siege on Charsada and Pasaband districts, something that has skyrocketed food prices in the two districts.
Taliban’s growing power
The Taliban strength is growing on a daily basis in Ghor to an extent that the militant group has even infiltrated into 20 kilometers to Ferozkoh, as per the account of an MP from the province. The government maintains control over districts’ centers while the Taliban are present in close vicinity of the district centers,” claims Keramuddin Rezazadah, who represents Ghor province in the Parliament.
Hassan Hakimi, a civil activist, says that the Afghan defense and security forces are not capable of providing security and preventing the districts from a collapse. He urges the central government to deploy more security forces to the province. “The government and security officials lie to people about the deteriorating security situation. The existing forces in Ghor are not able to contain the Taliban attacks and now Lal Wa Sarjangal is the only secure district.”
He further went on to warn that Ghor will witness a bloody spring if the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban collapse.
Outraged by the growing insecurity and the Taliban strength, residents of Ghor province protested four times over the last months. They blamed the former governor, Noor Mohammad Kouhnavard, for mismanagement and incompetency and called for his removal. Ultimately, the central government appointed Abdul Zahir Faizzadah as the new governor for Ghor on Sunday, March 28.
Five days after his appointment as the governor of the province, Mr. Faizzadah was attacked by the Taliban militants in the western suburbs of Ferozkoh—an attack that suggested how close the Taliban militants were to capture the capital city of Ghor.
According to MP Rezazadah, some bases of Afghan security forces are not supplied with the required weapons, munitions, and most importantly salaries of the security forces are not paid timely. He called for an acceleration of the supply process to the government forces and timely payment of security forces.
As many as 20 policemen surrendered to the Taliban with their arms, munitions, and a base in Taywara district, said Habibul Rahman Malikzadah, police chief of the district, on March 31. He said that these security forces surrendered to the militant group for their salaries had not been paid.
The governor, however, assures that security forces will be supplied with the required equipment and materials in the districts. “We have made continuous flights to Taywara and other districts to supply the government forces since the day I was appointed as Ghor governor. I personally manage to supply food materials to government forces,” Mr. Faizzadah said. He vowed to deploy reinforcement security to the areas which came under Taliban attacks.
Two districts under Taliban siege
According to local sources, Charsada district has been under the Taliban siege and Pasaband district is under the same situation for three years now. The militants do not allow the supply of food and basic materials to the two districts resulting in a dramatic jump in food prices in the districts. Charsada is located 120 kilometers to the north of Ferozkoh and Pasaband is situated 120 kilometers to the south of the capital city.
Residents of Charsada and Pasaband districts have been facing severe food scarcity and lack of basic materials to an extent that they mix flour with ashes and then eat it. “Some people mix ashes with flour in order to decrease their spending. Some others cook pounded bones and eat it,” MP Rezazadah said.
He, meanwhile, warned a humanitarian catastrophe threatens the population if the two districts remain under the Taliban siege. “There is no seller or shop in Charsada and Pasaband to sell even a gunny of flour or rice. A gunny of flour or rice is sold in return for even 5,000 afghanis.”
Residents of the two districts say that previously they were able to bring basic materials to their homes but the Taliban have recently exerted tight control.
The governor promises that the local government will distribute aid packages for residents of the two districts soon.
War coupled with Taliban siege has forced thousands of Ghor residents to flee their homes for Ferozkoh and the neighboring Herat province. They are now living in harsh conditions.
“We came to Herat for heavy fighting was underway in our district. I’m often jobless and we have not received any aid. We call on the government to provide security in our district until we can return,” says Abdul Rahman, who is a resident of Taywara district. He was displaced one year ago and is now living along with his five-membered family in Shaidayee area of Herat in a very bad situation.
As per account of local sources, the Taliban have shut some key roads in the province and the government forces are incapable to reopen them. The Taliban militants exploded Kamanj Bridge on a highway connecting Ghor with the neighboring Herat province in the west.
Ghor governor said they have planned a military operation to defeat the Taliban. Accusing the Taliban of taking the civilians as hostages, he said a key reason behind the postponement of the operation is the government’s cautiousness to avoid civilian casualties.
Taliban collect Ushr and Zakat
Though locals are suffering severe poverty, the Taliban have reportedly collected money and extorted people in the name of collecting Ushr and Zakat in the areas under their control in Ghor. It is a matter of concern as the militants expand their control over swaths of territories in the province.
“The Taliban extort ordinary [people] on a weekly and monthly basis for owning sheep, cow, and poultry as Ushr, Zakat, and charity,” claims MP Rezazadah.
Civil activist, Hassan Hakimi, said the Taliban extorted locals, particularly the farmers, just to fund their war machine against the government forces. “Sometimes 10 to 20 Taliban militants go to doorsteps of the people and force [them] to provide the militants with food.”