A large Taliban offensive has allegedly started in the Bala Baluk district of the western province of Farah. The offensive, which began early this morning, is reported to have over 400 Taliban fighters taking part.
TOLO Television, an Afghan news agency, quoted Farah's police chief Abdul Razaq Yaqubi as saying, "Some 400 Taliban rebels attacked Balablok district at 05:30 a. m. local time today and fierce fighting continues." The police chief goes on to say "one police and eight Taliban militants had been killed and six more militants and a police constable sustained injuries."
There has been no official statement from the Taliban on their official website, Voice of Jihad, but a figure on Twitter claiming to be a member of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban's title for Afghanistan) says that 13 policemen were killed and 10 others wounded with 19 captured by the Taliban. The tweet can be seen below in Arabic.
Taliban gaining ground
In June, the Taliban amassed anywhere from 800-1000 fighters to attack government positions in the Sangin district of Helmand. The Afghan government were quick to call for peace talks in the district, which does signal that the government does not have a firm grip on the district.
In July, around 300 Taliban fighters were involved in an offensive that took the Char Sada district of the central province of Ghor. Then in August, more than 700 Taliban fighters launched an offensive in the Charkh district in the eastern province of Logar. The status of this district is not yet clear. In early October, a Balochi group loyal to the Taliban and al Qaeda claimed to have taken the Registan district of Kandahar.
The group, Junood al Fida, posted pictures of an overran military outpost in the remote district on their official Twitter page. As well as the pictures, the Taliban released an official statement claiming to have retaken the district. The Afghan government were quick to deny these claims, however. The group has also released a follow up video showcasing more battles in the remote regions of the deserts of Kandahar.
Then just a few weeks ago, the Taliban claimed to have retaken three more districts in Afghanistan. The Long War Journal said that, "the district of Sayyidabad in Wardak as well as the districts of Chahar Darah and Dasht-i-Archi in Kunduz province are under the Taliban's thumb."
The Taliban have been gaining ground in recent months in part due to the Western withdrawal from the country. As more and more Western troops leave the country, more districts are expected to fall into the Taliban's grip. Even with a small US residual force, the Taliban will more than likely continue to amass large numbers of troops to take back various districts.