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Taliban assault Afghan parliament, take two districts in Kunduz

The Taliban claimed credit for today's attack in the capital on its website, Voice of Jihad, stating that "multiple martyrdom seekers of [the] Islamic Emirate armed with heavy and light weapons" assaulted the heavily secured seat of government.

The attack in Kabul began after a suicide bomber penetrated rings of security around the parliament building and detonated his vehicle at the main gate at approximately 10:30 a.m. Armed Taliban fighters then attempted to enter the breach created by the suicide bomber, but were repelled by Afghan forces after several hours of fighting.

Afghan officials claimed that seven Taliban fighters who participated in the attack, including the suicide bomber, were killed. At least two civilians were killed and dozens more were wounded in the fighting.

The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using one or more suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic frequently used by the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda and its branches, allied groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and by the rival Islamic State. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.

The Taliban have vowed to target the "foreign occupiers" and "the stooge regime," or Afghan government, as part of this year's spring offensive, which is called Azm, or Resolve. The jihadist group has targeted both the government and foreigners in Kabul since announcing Azm. In one of the more deadly attacks this spring, a Taliban fighter killed 14 people, including nine foreigners, in an attack on a hotel in Kabul.

Two districts in Kabul fall to Taliban

In addition to assaulting the parliament building in Kabul, the Taliban seized control of the districts of Chardara and Dasht-i-Archi in the northern province of Kunduz over the past three days.

Taliban fighters overran the Chardara district center on June 20, and the Dasht-i-Archi district center earlier today, Afghan officials said.

According to Xinhua, "security forces tactically retreated to outer sides of the [Dasht-i-Archi] district center to avoid civilian casualties."

On Voice of Jihad, the Taliban release a photograph of a fighter raising the Taliban's white banner in Dasht-i-Archi.

"The district HQ building was overrun along with 14 surrounding security posts since clashes began Sunday against the enemy forces during which a total of 24 hireling troops were killed and dozens of other wounded," the report on Voice of Jihad claimed. "8 enemy APCs, 12 pickup trucks, 3 hatchback vehicles, 130 items of heavy and small arms and a sizable amount of other military equipment was seized."

The Taliban launched an offensive to seize control of Kunduz province at the end of April. The districts of Imam Sahib, Aliabad, and Qala-i-Zal were overrun in the initial assault. The status of those districts is unclear, but the Taliban are thought to be in control of Imam Sahib and Aliabad.

Just after the offensive began, an Afghan official claimed that 65 percent of the province is under Taliban control. The loss of Chardara and Dasht-i-Archi means that four of the seven districts of Kunduz are likely under Taliban control.

The Taliban released a lengthy video shortly after the Kunduz offensive began that showed its fighters in control of Afghan security forces' outposts, captured security personnel, and vehicles and weapons seized during the fighting.

Kunduz and neighboring provinces were relatively peaceful after the US toppled the Taliban regime in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the US. In 2009, the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has integrated into the Taliban's command structure in the Afghan north, began destabilizing the northern provinces and took control of several districts in Kunduz. Additionally, the jihadist groups made major inroads in other provinces, and even established training camps in the previously quiet provinces of Samangan and Sar-i-Pul.

The Taliban have been growing increasingly bold in the north over the past several months. In addition to seizing two districts in Kunduz, the Taliban overran a district in Jawzjan province in December 2014. That same month the jihadist group publicized one of its training camps in the northern province of Faryab.

Taliban make a push in Helmand

Helmand province, a traditional Taliban stronghold in the Afghan south, has also been under assault by the jihadist group. Late last week, Taliban fighters "sacked part of the center of Musa Qala District, according to the residents, setting a clinic on fire and destroying government vehicles parked at a major police station," The New York Times reported.

The Taliban claimed that "the [Musa Qala] district police HQ building was completely overrun, 24 police including the commander - Sabir - and 3 hireling commando troopers were killed and dozens of others wounded" during the attack.

Much of Helmand province has been contested since last summer, when an al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group known as Junood al Fida claimed it took control of the remote southern district of Registan. The Taliban overran the central district of Sangin one year ago, and the district is contested. Baghran is thought to be under Taliban control, as is much of Kajaki.

The US and NATO end its combat mission in Afghanistan in December 2014 and the limited number of forces have shifted to an advise and support role. Less than 10,000 US troops and several thousand NATO personnel remain in Afghanistan. As the US withdrew the bulk of its forces last year, the Taliban stepped up operations in southern, western, and eastern Afghanistan and have taken control of several districts and currently contests others throughout the country.

[Source: By Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal, NJ, 22Jun15]

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