WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2015 — Conditions continue to deteriorate in Northern Afghanistan after the fall of Kunduz. Afghan forces and police not only failed to retake the city but abandoned their posts against much smaller numbers of Taliban fighters.
The takeover of Kunduz triggered a wave of departures and evacuations of Afghan officials and citizens that threatens to turn into a rout. It will eventually threaten the central government in Kabul, 90 miles to the south of Baghlan.
Taliban fighters spread their offensive south from Kunduz to the neighboring province of Baghlan, where government troops attempting to regroup and retake Kunduz are bogged down in a spreading Taliban offensive that has clearly rattled Afghan officials.
Taliban fighters advanced on Kunduz from three directions and took the center of the city within hours as Afghan forces retreated to the airport. American airstrikes failed to dislodge the insurgents, and the advance quickly spread south to Baghlan, where Afghan troops are now stymied.
The deteriorating confidence in the central government and the flight of government officials ahead of a numerically smaller Taliban, including the abandonment of military equipment, is threatening to resemble the lighting takeover of Mosel and disintegration of Iraqi forces against ISIS.
Kunduz is the largest city in the north and not an area that historically had much of a Taliban presence. The lack of response on the part of the Afghan government openly concerns American officials. Reinforcements, if they arrive, “will not be able to reach Kunduz without a big fight,” according to Ted Callahan, a Western security adviser in Afghanistan.
In a worrying sign, two units of the Afghan local police in the provincial capital of Baghlan, Pul-i-Kumri, surrendered their positions and joined the insurgents.
Kunduz and Baghlan are largely Pushtan areas, and south of Pul-i-Kumri is largely Tajik, so a greater level of organized resistance by Tajik-aligned local forces would be expected.
With resistance continuing to crumble, panic is settling in. Should the advance overrun Pul-i-Kumri, it would be a significant threat to the central government in Kabul.
A local official estimated that as much as 10 percent of the local population had already evacuated ahead of advancing Taliban positions.