Taliban Control Increases as Afghan Troops are Forced into Tajikistan

On 5 July, a statement made by the Tajik border authority through the state-run news outlet Khovar announced that 1,037 Afghan soldiers had fled for their lives into Tajikistan earlier that day. According to both the Washington Post and BBC, this is the fifth occurrence of a cross-country retreat in two weeks. As fighting intensifies and a resurging Taliban force continues to make gains right up to the Tajik border in Afghanistan’s north-eastern provinces, the total number of Afghan servicemen in Tajikistan now stands at 1,600.

The stunning of pro-Afghan government forces in Afghanistan’s Kunduz, Takhar, and Badakhshan provinces has laid way to a strategic grip on the area for the Taliban. Whilst a member of Badakhshan’s provincial council told the Washington Post 28 districts in the province had fallen under the group’s control, the taking of key border crossings has prompted the Tajik state to mobilise 20,000 military reservists at the border and Russia to increase military support.

Shifts in Taliban presence in the region are significant. Five years ago, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported a limited conflict severity in the region. In the same period, the European Asylum Support Office recorded 76-150 incidents in the north-eastern provinces compared to the 1251 to 2000 incidents recorded in southern provinces like Helmand and Kandahar. Yet, last month the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko announced that up to 70% of the Afghan-Tajik border had come under Taliban control, according to the Moscow Times.

As Taliban Mujahideen once skipped the remote mountainous borders of Tajikistan during their struggle against a firm coalition presence, a marked reversal in those doing the skipping is reflective of a larger national shift.

In May of 2017, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction placed the insurgent control of districts in Afghanistan at 11.1%. Now, since the agreed transition of US and NATO troops out of the country from May of this year under the Doha agreement (2020), the UN special envoy for Afghanistan has warned that the Taliban have taken 50 additional districts.

At the start of this month, Biden defended the complete withdrawal of US troops by August 31 when stating that it would be up to the Afghan people to decide “how they run their country”. As foreign forces have all but left after 20 years of operating in Afghanistan, who will run the country is perhaps becoming terminal. The Taliban now claim they control 85% of Afghanistan.

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Hamish Davis

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July 2021
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