Taliban Overruns Much of Northern Afghanistan in Weekend Offensive

Five more provincial capitals have fallen this weekend

The Afghan government had been losing ground to the Taliban for weeks, and provincial capitals were starting to be contested. This weekend, the floodgates opened and the Taliban rapidly overran a number of key cities, seizing no less than five provincial capitals.

With the military pushing into Helmand to try to chase the Taliban out of Lashkar Gah, a provincial capital they took over a week ago, the Taliban forces in the north seized a large amount of northern Afghanistan.

It took just a really bad weekend for the Taliban to end up seizing Sheberghan, Sar-e Pul, Taloqan, and even the strategically important city of Kunduz. Meanwhile, the Taliban fighting in Helmand spilled over into neighboring Nimruz, and captured the capital of Zaranj.

That’s a lot of lossesĀ  in not much time. It’s not clear the Afghan government can even conceivably try to counter all these new losses, and instead seems to be focusing on a new propaganda push, focusing on selling the idea that losing five capitals in two days isn’t that big a deal.

Losing all these cities, including Kunduz and the already fallen Lashkar Gah, is already a big deal, and with the Taliban pushing on places like Herat, more could be lost. Afghan forces are off-balance and the Taliban is showing surprising confidence.

The US is throwing more air support behind the government, but so far that’s centered on Helmand, destroying a school and a health clinic and killing at least 20 civilians. That, needless to say, is not a productive counter-attack.

These aren’t just big losses but decisive ones. The government’s downplaying of the losses aside, some of the capitals fell with virtually no resistance, and where fighting did take place, the Taliban still won overwhelmingly.

That’s not to say that there is likely to be an immediate continuation of this string of losses. The Taliban tends to push most of its advantages over the weekend, and then consolidate for a little while.

The Taliban issued a statement later Sunday saying there had been no deal on a ceasefire yet, and warning the US against trying any further intervention. The Biden Administration has ordered B-52 bombers into the mix, and past comments suggest they’re going to continue to intervene to prevent a total Taliban victory.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.