First Week of May was Bloody

With the arrival of May, the war has intensified in most parts of the country. According to statistics, the scale of the conflict has even spread to relatively insecure provinces in recent days, and fierce fighting continues in most provinces, especially Helmand, Baghlan, Ghazni and Farah. Security forces say an average of 100 Taliban fighters are killed every day, and most of their plans to overthrow major cities have failed. The Taliban, however, besides denying the death toll, blame the escalation of violence on the non-implementation of the Doha Agreement and the launch of military operations in areas under its control. According to the group, when political efforts do not progress, the group’s fighters are forced to take up arms. Military experts believe that the government should reduce its focus on the political option and take military pressure into account. According to these experts, the battlefields will determine the outcome of the Istanbul Conference, and the government must go to the conference with full hands. It is worth mentioning that according to statistics, during the first four months of the year, nearly 10,000 people were killed in the war in Afghanistan.

Under the Doha Agreement, US troops were to leave Afghanistan by May. Now that the withdrawal has been delayed for about four months, clashes between security forces and Taliban fighters have intensified in most parts of the country. Clashes have continued in more than 20 provinces, according to statistics released from battlefields over the past two days. This figure reaches about 30 provinces in the first week of May. Currently, Helmand, Baghlan, Farah and Ghazni are among the provinces where the fighting continues. In Ghazni province, clashes have intensified in various districts. Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, chairperson of the Ghazni Provincial Council, told 8 Subh on Friday. May 7, that fighting had intensified in the province over the past month, with clashes in Qarabagh, Gilan, Muqur and a number of other districts in addition to the provincial capital. He described the situation in Ghazni as “fragile” and “worrying” and said that if the province was not taken care of, it was likely to see widespread clashes as it had three years ago.

In Helmand, the situation is also called “worrying”. Abdul Ahad Sultanzai, a member of the Helmand Provincial Council, told 8 Subh that the Taliban were stationed in sensitive areas of Lashkargah and threatened security checkpoints in the provincial capital. He added that not enough efforts have been made to improve the situation in Helmand and that the districts of the province are limited to only those near the provincial capital. According to Mr. Sultanzai, security forces are handing over one checkpoint after another under the guise of tactical retreat, and “no progress” has been made on Helmand’s security situation. According to him, there were only two flights a week operated by Kam Air to the province, which are likely to be suspended in the coming days after a rocket hits the landing site.

Clashes continue in Baghlan province. In recent days, Baraka district in the province fell to the Taliban. In addition, the Taliban took control of the Old City in central Baghlan. Firuzuddin Aimaq, a member of the Baghlan Provincial Council, said that the Taliban had seized one of the six parts in the Old City of central Baghlan, one named “Jarkhushk”, and that five others had also fallen. He added that Taliban fighters are also active in Nahreen, Baghlan, Doshi, Dehna Ghori, Tala and Barfak districts and some other districts and control parts of these districts. According to Mr. Aimaq, commandos have just arrived in the province and pushed the Taliban back from the New City. He added that there is good coordination between local and central administrations and efforts are being made to eliminate threats from the province.

The security situation in Farah is also described as “unfit”. The Taliban currently control Bakwa, Gulistan, Khak-e-Safid and Shebkoh districts and have closed access routes to other districts and the center. Officials at the Farah Provincial Council say security forces are currently being supplied by air. Shah Mahmood Naimi, deputy of the Farah provincial council, said heavy fighting had continued in Bala Bolok in recent days. According to him, the Taliban have seized one or two security checkpoints and security forces are currently stationed at the Farahrood crossroads. He added that the recent setback was due to taking control of strategic points because the Taliban are trying to control the two-way road, they will open their way to the north of Farah through Bakwa and Gulistan districts, and block the government forces’ way from Shindand district of Herat.

Clashes have also intensified in Kandahar. The Taliban seized the Dahla Dam in the province for two days. According to security sources in the province, Taliban fighters have destroyed a bridge in the area to allow for full control of the dam. Sources say security forces are trying to retake the dam. It is worth mentioning that Dehla Dam is one of the biggest dams in Kandahar, to which agriculture in some parts of the province also depends.

Defense Ministry: 100 Taliban killed in one day; Taliban: Security Forces were forced to retreat

The Ministry of Defense says that although Taliban violence has increased since the Doha Agreement, the group has intensified it during the first week of May. Defense Ministry spokesperson Fawad Aman, however, said security forces had inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban in most parts of the country, including Helmand, Kandahar, Farah and Baghlan. He added that the average number of Taliban killed per day was 100, and that the group’s casualties had risen more than ever. Mr. Aman added that the security forces have new plans and have implemented this plan in Baghlan and around Ghazni city. He added that the Taliban intended to seize cities, including Kandahar, Helmand, Baghlan and Ghazni, but that none of the Taliban’s plans had actualized and that dozens of attacks by the group were repelled daily. According to figures released by the Ministry of Defense, more than 700 Taliban fighters were killed and more than 500 others wounded in the first week of May.

The Taliban blames the non-implementation of the Doha Agreement and the efforts of security forces to launch operations for the increase in violence. Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesperson, said that obstacles were created in the intra-Afghan negotiation process and that when there was no political progress, the group’s fighters would have to resort to the military option and continue their operations. According to him, the security forces have launched operations in some places, which have met with a reaction from the group. Zabihullah Mujahid said all government officials use the terms war and threat to indicate the government’s focus on the military option. He added that in that case, the Taliban would defend their position and the security forces would be forced to retreat. He also denied the allegations of heavy casualties, saying that if such casualties were inflicted, the group would be forced to retreat instead of security forces.

Military Experts: battlefields will determine the outcome of the Istanbul Conference 

As the clashes continue, military experts say the Taliban have had a chance to move, and the outcome of the Istanbul Conference is now being determined by the battlefields. Atiqullah Amarkhail, a military intelligence officer, told 8 Subh on Friday, May 7, that government officials were focusing all their efforts on a political solution, while the Taliban had a military option. He added that security forces needed to conduct and take full control of key areas of the country, including Kandahar, Farah, Helmand, Uruzgan, Badakhshan and Baghlan, before the Istanbul Conference and the start of the Taliban movement. He added that this has not been done so far and that the Taliban have this military option. He cited the presence of acting-heads in security agencies as one of the reasons for it, saying it would make the officials irresponsible and unaccountable. 

According to Mr. Amarkhail, the government should now focus on the military option because the Istanbul Conference needs achievement. He said the government’s role in the peace process was clear and that relying on parties and other political currents was not helpful. Atiqullah Amarkhail stated that leaving the checkpoints as a “tactical retreat” would damage the morale of the security forces because giving up means failing. He added that the security forces and their management are already weak enough on the battlefields.

It is worth mentioning that the level of conflicts has been kept high during the first months of 2021. Nearly 10,000 people were killed in the first four months of the year alone, according to figures provided by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. However, the parties have not yet agreed on a political option, and the fate of the Istanbul Conference is unknown.