The Afghan forces have made “tactical retreat” in parts of the western provinces in recent months as the Taliban battle to claim more territory continues. Footages circulating on social media show abandoned military bases destroyed, looted by the locals, and in some cases taken over by the Taliban.
Most recently, Afghan forces evacuated two military bases in Bala Buluk district of Farah province and in Karez Elyas of Herat’s Gulran district. In March, Afghan army forces evacuated a battalion in Bala Murghab district of Badghis province – abandonment of largest military headquarters in western Afghanistan during last solar year (1399).
Talking to Kabul Now, some members of provincial councils and MPs expressed concerns saying that such military evacuations would help the Taliban to control more territories and spread insecurity.
Though local sources confirmed the abandonment of military headquarters, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) did not provide information in this regard. The army is making progress and suppresses the Taliban, said the MoD spokesperson, rejecting that the Taliban militants are making progress in western Afghanistan.
A few days earlier, army forces evacuated two bases in Bala Buluk district and retreated to Duo Rahi Fararoad. MP Abdul Sattar Hussaini, who represents Farah in the Parliament, said that the government forces were forced to retreat after the Taliban militants destroyed part of the bases with explosions and launched attacks. A key factor behind the collapse of the two army bases, as the MP puts it, was the bad weather which made it impossible for Air Force to conduct an airstrike on the Taliban. “They had attacked the bases from four directions. They also took equipment of the [army] forces with them.”
“Abandoning the army bases in Farah boost up the Taliban’s war moral. Instead of abandonment, the bases and outposts should have reinforced,” said Shah Mahmood Naeemi, deputy chairperson of Farah Provincial Council. He added that the army forces retreated from these two bases following the decision made by the province’s military council.
When asked about it, Farah Governor Taj Mohammad Jahid, who heads the province’s military council, noted that replacement is a usual military measure.
As per account of Mr. Naeemi, the Taliban have full control of Bakwa, Khake-e-Safid, Gulistan, and Shibkoh districts of Farah and can potentially pose threat against the other six districts of the province. The concern for Taliban’s increasing dominance in Farah is still in its place, he warned.
Taliban dig tunnels to overran army bases
In recent years, the Taliban militants have largely resorted to digging tunnels that have been proven destructive and determining for the militants. In May 02, the Taliban killed as many as 20 army soldiers and took hostages many others after blasting Shiwan army base in Bala Buluk district, according to local security sources.
Footages obtained by Kabul Now suggest that a large part of the base is either destroyed or looted. In some cases, the local residents have stormed and looted military equipment after army soldiers abandon their bases. Some Afghan social media users criticized the locals, noting that such acts suggest the locals are aligned with the Taliban.
In Bala Murghab, the Taliban have widely used digging tunnels in order to storm military bases.
There is no military plan to retake army bases in Bala Murghab district, says Badghis governor, Hessamuddin Shams. “Several bases and outposts are on the frontlines in Moqur and Jawand districts but the rest are in good security situation,” he added.
According to Abdul Aziz Beig, a member of Badghis Provincial Council, army bases and outposts are under serious Taliban threats in Qadis, Moqur, Ab Kamari, Jawand, and along the Herat-Qala-e-Naw highway.
To prevent another abandonment as in Bala Murghab, he calls on the leadership of security forces to remove the threats around army headquarters.
“Herat is Taliban grave”
On April 29, army forces abandoned their base in Karez Elyas village of Herat’s Kohsan district. Later, the 207 Zafar Military Corps said in a statement that the army base was moved with all its forces and military equipment to Kamana base of the same district following the decision made by the MoD and Herat’s military council.
The Taliban, however, claimed that they have overrun the base and seized a large number of weapons with few armored military vehicles from it.
The locals told Kabul Now that the Taliban have destroyed parts of the military base.
Pashtun Zarghoon, Gulran, Ghoryan, and Farsi districts of Herat are also under the Taliban’s threats.
As per account of Kohsan’s residents, the Taliban control all parts of Farsi district except its army headquarter. Hundreds of Taliban militants have come to this province from Farah and Helmand provinces planning to overrun the army base. “All shops have been destroyed in Taliban car bomb in Farsi. The Taliban want to target the army forces inside their base. This base will fall to the Taliban if reinforcement is not made for these [security] forces.”
Kamran Alizai, chief of Herat Provincial Council, calls on the government to measure and remove the threats against some military headquarters. “The government has control only over the district centers and the rest are under the Taliban control. The Taliban want to overrun key [military] bases and outposts in Herat,” he warned.
Meanwhile, Herat governor Sayed Abdul Wahid Qatali, claims that the Taliban faced defeat in their attacks over the past two months. “The enemy wanted to overrun some districts of Herat but they couldn’t fulfill their dream. Herat is the Taliban grave and the people are defending their security forces,” the governor said, assuring that no army base will fall into the hands of the Taliban.
Top MoD officials refuse to comment regarding the abandoned army bases and headquarters in western provinces. But the MoD deputy spokesperson, Fawad Aman, argues that there is no concern for Taliban’s growing power. “The Taliban have been defeated and is weakening day by day. The defense and security forces are in a better position and the Taliban suffer a growing level of casualties,” he said, denoting that the Taliban’s major offensives in Baghlan, Helmand, and Kandahar were repelled.
Etilaatroz’s Wajid Rohani has contributed reporting from Herat.