At the beginning, Taliban spring offensive seemed to everyone as every other year’s spring offensive – before it started. But soon it was to be proven otherwise: a bloody spring.
A diaspora of Afghan and foreign militants were rearming and reorganizing their manpower in northern Afghanistan in early 2015– a fact already known to the Afghan government as Taliban’s annual violent ritual, but what they didn’t know was how vast, well-equipped, and contaminating it was – and will get.
Afghan government proved that there was enough evidence to suggest that foreign nationals from Uzbekistan, Chechen, Pakistan and Tajikistan were fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban in the primary stages of the offensive in northern Afghanistan.
Taliban officially declared the beginning of their spring offensive, named it operation “Azm” – Arabic for “Resolute”. Minor attacks mostly on Afghan police posts in southern Afghanistan begun happening and the infamous spokesperson for the Taliban would claim responsibility of each attack in an email sent out to the media – with their ill-exaggerated casualty tolls.
Actual signs of the bloody spring started from Badakhshan province where several Afghan Army soldiers were beheaded, their outposts destroyed, and their weapons taken away for use in taking control of other districts. This dilemma was the alarm that woke up the Afghan army, intelligence service, and the national Security Council to notice that there’s something unusual about this year’s offensive: A much stronger, better-equipped, much larger, multinational enemy force was fighting this year.
Strength and reliability of Afghan Army, Police, Intelligence, and Air Force – and their ability to operate independently and defend Afghan territories without NATO support was tested and proven after Badakhshan incidents – but at the cost of death of those soldiers whose throats were slashed, and a relatively big embarrassment for the leaderless Defense Ministry for losing strategic areas of Badakhshan and not having the platoons combat-ready.
At the same time as Afghan forces were advancing in Badakhshan, Taliban were moving to prepare for a similar attempt in Kunduz province. Not long before Badakhshan clearance operation was over, Kunduz started to slide toward the edge. Imam Sahib and Khan Abad districts were at highest risk of a Taliban attack. But the Afghan forces prevented it with a massive counteroffensive using joint forces with intense air support.
Next was the volatile Farah province located in the west of the country. Taliban fighters who were hidingin cover ofordinary people in Bakwa, Gulistan, Juwain and Purchaman districts of Farah had converged and attacked many positions across the province. Afghan Army’s 207 Zafar Corps (Victory) based out of neighboring Herat province handled this, as well as some reinforcements were sent from Helmand’s 215 Maiwand Corps of Army.
At some point when the heat of Farah attack was cooling down, a joint special team of Afghan forces achieved a victory that gave a “Yay!” feeling to many Afghans. Control of Nawa district located in the far south of Ghazni province was taken from Taliban after 9 consecutive years. The government did not share any information about the special mission to seize this district neither before the operation, nor after it. Only a mere confirmation – more of a pride gesture – was released out to the media by Defense and Interior Ministries.
Badghis province was the next victim. Taliban and their foreign comrades took control of Jawand district of Badghis. But again, Afghan forces struck back and retook the district, launching clearance operation to sweep out the remaining Taliban pests from the district. This operation was not yet over when the neighboring province of Ghor became a headline for the news media.
A large number of Taliban converged into Charsada and Pasaband districts of northwestern Ghor province and lived in the districts publicly, forcing the residents to feed them, serve them, and obey them. Governor of Ghor told an Afghan news channel that Afghan forces had already finished one territory clearance objective, and the 2nd phase of the operation is just about to start, but forces are waiting for commandos from 4th Commando Battalion (Victory – Herat) to arrive in Ghor to launch the second phase of the clearance operation.
A bizarre incident happening at the same time as Ghor province today, is the Islamic State insurgents in Eastern Afghanistan having a fracas over an internal matter with Taliban fighters.A gunfight was ensued between the two insurgent groups that left casualties on both sides. According to a Defense Ministry report, until 02:00 pm (Kabul Time) the fight between ISIS and Taliban fighters was still ongoing.
At last, questions that are circulating within the brains of Afghans, trying to find its answer are: Which province is going to be attacked next? Are Afghan forces capable to hold on against such attacks for longer periods without asking for NATO’s help? Will the political government of Afghanistan show the courtesy of respecting the armed forces’ efforts by not messing up their achievements?. . . . . . . . . . .
Mustafa Kazemi is an independent war correspondent based in Afghanistan.
He tweets from @CombatJourno on Afghanistan current affairs and live updates of security incidents.