A little over 24 hours after they arrived, Afghan forces today announced they were successful in expelling the Taliban from the central portion of the major northern city of Kunduz. This appears to forestall a protracted loss, like the one in fall of 2015, but fighting is still ongoing.
Kunduz is one of three Afghan provincial capitals currently being contested. Taliban forces have also advanced near the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah, as well as Uruzgan’s capital of Tarin Kot. While Helmand and Uruzgan are both provinces centered on the opium trade, Kunduz is much farther north, and a much bigger city.
Indeed, historically the Taliban has struggled with any control this far north, and last year’s capture of the city was a major shock. That just a year later the Taliban are threatening the city once again adds to doubts about the Afghan military’s ability to defend even major cities.
This has been a long-standing concern, despite Pentagon claims that the Afghan military is in good shape, as evidence of widespread corruption and the existence of “ghost troops” who exist only on paper means the defense checkpoints are often undermanned, and exactly how many real people are defending any given site is never certain.
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