Witnesses and analysts said the Taliban managed over the past week to turn any victory in the north into an opportunity to send more troops into other critical battles. This raises the worrying possibility that strengthening the Taliban in the north could ease their offensive towards Kabul.
In western Afghanistan, Farah has been a focus of offensive operations by the Taliban for years. The insurgents have taken their toll in recent weeks, officials said. However, there have been mixed reports as to whether government forces were still fighting to recapture seized parts of the city on Tuesday.
Gulbuddin, a police officer in Farah who, like many Afghans, has only one name, said government officials fled to an army headquarters several miles outside the city and the main prison was breached by Taliban fighters. The streets, he said, were full of liberated prisoners.
Several Farah residents who were contacted by phone said that there were few, if any, shots in their neighborhoods as of Tuesday afternoon. Ahmad Zubair, who lives in the city, said he hadn’t heard or seen any signs of fighting.
“The Taliban are walking in our neighborhood,” he said.
Belqis Roshan, a member of parliament from Farah province, said the governor’s office and police headquarters had been confiscated, but fighting near the airport to the east of the city was still ongoing. And Masood Bakhtawar, the provincial governor of Farah, denied that the city had been completely captured by the insurgents and said the fighting was ongoing.
Hasib Siddiqi, a resident of Farah city, said his neighbors had fled the city in the past few days.
“We were deceived by the government’s assurances,” he said. “They said the city was not going to collapse and they brought helicopters and planes and they were going to defend the city.”