2019: a year of Taliban retreat as militants lose control of 13 districts

By Najibullah

In this photograph taken October 13, an Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) soldier mans a machine gun while patrolling an area in Guzara District, Herat Province. [Hoshang Hashemi/AFP]

In this photograph taken October 13, an Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) soldier mans a machine gun while patrolling an area in Guzara District, Herat Province. [Hoshang Hashemi/AFP]

KABUL -- Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) inflicted heavy Taliban casualties during far-ranging military operations in 2019 and captured 13 districts from the militants.

The ANDSF "launched Operation Khalid [in the spring of 2019], enabling us to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy and capture many areas from them", said Rohullah Ahmadzai, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence.

"We were able to recapture 13 districts from the enemy. Full security has been restored as our defence and security forces are present in these districts," said Ahmadzai.

For example, the ANDSF captured Dahna-i-Ghori District from the Taliban on October 23 after three years of the Taliban holding it, said the Defence Ministry.

In a two-week operation ending November 30, the ANDSF also drove the Taliban out of Marjah District, Helmand Province, said the Defence Ministry. The Taliban had held the district for four years.

In the operation, troops killed Mullah Abdul Bari, the Taliban commander for Marjah, and injured dozens of militants, said the ministry.

Earlier in the year, on September 6, the ANDSF evicted the Taliban from Warduj District, Badakhshan Province. The group had held Warduj for four years.

Troops killed 28 Taliban militants including their shadow provincial governor and three commanders in the Badakhshan fighting, said the Defence Ministry.

Drop in Afghan casualties

The Taliban announced their Al-Fatah spring offensive against Afghan security forces and military installations at the beginning of the current solar year (late March), but the offensive ended in failure.

"As a result of attacks launched by the ANDSF, the Taliban have suffered heavy defeats throughout Afghanistan," said Masood Andarabi, acting interior minister, at a meeting in Kabul on December 12.

"Despite an increase in the Taliban's attacks, casualties of the ANDSF have dropped by 10% this year," Andarabi said.

The ANDSF are determined to bring peace to Afghanistan, and the government is pursuing the peace process while relying on these forces, said Andarabi.

"After the National Army launched Operation Khalid, key Taliban members including shadow provincial governors, district governors and commanders of their Red Unit were annihilated in a few months," said Ahmadzai of the Defence Ministry.

"You saw how ISIS was crushed in the east after the security forces put pressure on them," added Ahmadzai, referring to "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".

"Our operations will continue in the winter too, and they will be conducted jointly with the Ministry of Interior and National Directorate of Security," said Ahmadzai.

Taliban under pressure

"Three key factors were behind the Afghan security forces' victory over the Taliban in 2019," said Gen. (ret.) Muhammad Taher Yarghal, a former officer of the Interior Ministry and a military analyst.

Changes in the leadership and other parts of the Ministry of Defence, better equipment and public support were behind the Afghan security forces' victory over the Taliban, said Yarghal.

"A number of Taliban fighters fed up with war renounced violence and joined the government," he added.

Afghan forces put intense pressure on the Taliban to drive them out of bases they had held for several years, Yarghal said.

Once the ANDSF's capabilities grew, they were able to inflict heavy damage on the Taliban in 2019, said Asadullah Nadim, an Afghan security analyst in Kabul.

"The Taliban were defeated in 2019 for various reasons -- their greed was key among them," said Nadim. "They wanted to achieve more bargaining power through their attacks during the peace talks."

"The Taliban have seen heavy casualties on the battlefield," he added. "Unfortunately, the Taliban who have been killed didn't know anything about their leaders' evil intentions."

"The security forces' operations and their performance are praiseworthy," he said.

The enhanced capabilities of the ANDSF have led to the weakening and numerous defeats of the Taliban, said Nader Khan Katawazai, who represents Paktika Province in the Wolesi Jirga.

"It is true that this year Afghan forces had great achievements and that the Taliban have been defeated on the battlefields," said Katawazai.

Civilians "are happy with the performance and achievements of the Afghan forces", he said. "The Taliban don't have the resources and equipment they did in the past in our areas."

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I kiss the hand of those who break the head of the powerful, May God break the hand of those who break the hand of the weak. (poem) Salaam and Regards! I am confident that if the daily work and the planning go on in such a manner, no force can wander spontaneously with arms in the provinces, districts, villages and any corner of this country. Perhaps, one of the reasons can be the good caress of the soldiers and officers by their commanders and leadership. Either conscientious act of the leadership of the three powers regarding the livelihood and other necessities of the soldiers and other personnel or awareness level of all personnel in modern tactics and relatively good equipment might have been changed. Anyway, I congratulate these achievements to all of you from the ministers, who do not consider themselves separated from the soldiers, up to the administrative staff. Similarly, I hope your advances will bring the message of peace. That is, the dissidents in any place agree to peace in which there is goodness. It is also worth mentioning that these advances of you prove that defense forces are the models for all the formal and informal staff as well as the nation. These progresses show your piety and virtues, and indicate that you are the right children of the nation. Long life to the righteous children of the country who bring peace at the cost of their lives for the sake of the happiness of the nation. God makes the nation superior Who writes its destiny with its o