Kandahar Razeq Spin Boldak Tadin Taleban tech War & Peace

Kandahar from Razeq to Tadin (1): Building the ‘American tribe’

Kandahar from Razeq to Tadin (1): Building the 'American tribe'

Kandahar’s Kherqa-ye Mubarak shrine, holding a cloak of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Photograph: Thomas Ruttig (2005)

After the assassination in October 2018 of Kandahar’s highly effective police chief and ruthless anti-Taleban strongman, Common Abdul Razeq, it was feared that the security regime he installed in central elements of the province may break down with out him and the Taleban may capitalise on it. Although preventing has since elevated, the scary collapse has not happened. On this two-part dispatch collection, AAN’s Thomas Ruttig and Ali Mohammad Sabawoon ask why. Partially one, they map the shifting stability of energy between pro-government and Taleban forces within the province in the last years beneath Razeq. They appear back on the reasons for his preliminary success in pushing the Taleban away from the provincial centre, a lot of Middle Kandahar and elements of the west – a mixture of local tribal, political and US help. Additionally they discovered a partial recovery of the Taleban in Kandahar was already underneath means during his lifetime.

The primary a part of this two half dispatch collection units the geographic and strategic scene, ie it maps Kandahar province’s 5 sub-regions and the fronts around Kandahar city, in addition to the security system Razeq established and the stability of mainly army power throughout his tenure. The second half seems to be at what changed after his assassination and underneath the tenure of his successor, Tadin.

A glimpse into Kandahar safety in the summertime of 2019

In the afternoon of 18 July 2019, Taleban detonated two automotive bombs in entrance of the Afghan Nationwide Police headquarters in Kandahar city and stormedthe police pressure’s counter-narcotics wing. After some hours of capturing, the eight attackers have been killed, but in addition – in accordance with official figures – no less than 12 individuals, including – in accordance with totally different sources – seven or nine civilians and some members of the safety forces. A physician at the Kandahar provincial hospital stated 83 wounded individuals had been admitted, most of them civilians.

The Taleban took duty for the assault (media stories here and right here). Kandahar’s provincial police chief, Tadin Khan Atsakzai (Tadin being the colloquial type of Tajuddin), got here out in entrance of TV cameras confirming the attack, but this was most certainly mainly to point out that he has not been hit.

It was a Taleban’s signature ‘complicated attack’ that often targets the Afghan (or overseas) safety forces, however typically cause more civilian than army harm. These attacks are designed to point out the vulnerability of the Afghan authorities forces, even in areas they’re nominally answerable for and in an try and weaken their morale but, past that, they haven’t any vital strategic aimto capture territory or achieve management over elements of the inhabitants.

Two days before, an official in Kandahar had advised an Afghan information company that the Taleban had intensified their attacks in six districts of the province. This followed a serious assault within the centre of the japanese district Maruf, the place the Taleban had used 4 explosive-rigged Humvee armoured automobiles captured from the federal government forces to assault an area Afghan army base on 30 June. This resulted in 11 troopers killed and 27 others wounded. There were also eight staff of Afghanistan’s Unbiased Election Fee, who have been conducting voter registration in the district, who lost their lives (media studies here and right here). Also, preventing in the notoriously risky district of Maiwand continued.

This is not an uncommon state of affairs. The province is of strategic and symbolic importance for both the federal government and the Taleban, not the least as it’s the provincial centre. It was additionally the Taleban’s quasi capital once they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Their motion was also founded in this province in a madrassa run by its now deceased chief, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in Sangesar, previously in Panjwayi, now in the new district of Zheray (in many official documents and most media reviews incorrectly spelt as ‘Zhari’).

The province remains highly risky. Preventing flares up sporadically in Kandahar’s districts, whereas there are frequent terrorist attacks in the provincial capital. The security state of affairs began deteriorating just some years after the ousting of the Taliban regime.

Kherqa-ye Sharif, the shrine for the cloak of the prophet (PBUH) in Kandahar city (extra background on this AAN dispatch).

Provincial Overview

  1. Kandahar‘s six sub-regions

Kandahar metropolis is a key provincial centre. The province has 15 official and two unofficial districts (based on the official authorities listing). They can be grouped into six sub-regions. These areas have distinct patterns of preventing and government and Taleban management.

  • ‘Middle-Kandahar’ consists of Kandahar metropolis, Arghandab to its instant northwest (to not confuse with the second Arghandab district in Zabul), in addition to Daman andthe unofficial district of Dand (the origin of the Karzai household). Elements of the 2 latter districts have been partly included into the provincial centre (not in contrast to in Kabul). Arghandab is dominated by the Alekozai tribe, whose most outstanding leader through the jihad period and after 2001, late mujahedin commander Mullah Naqibullah, was linked to the Taleban’s major home opponent, Jamiat-e Islami. This made it troublesome for them to penetrate the district. After Naqib’s demise, his son adopted on from him because the native leader of the tribe and was supported by the central authorities of President Hamed Karzai. (2)
  • The west consists of the three strategically and economically districts to its quick west – Panjwayi, Zheray and Maiwand. Maiwand is strategically situated on the essential street to neighbouring Helmand province; part of the nationwide ring street. This western-most a part of Kandahar can also be essential as an opium poppy cultivation space and even more so because it’s on the transit path to and from Baramchah in Disho district of neighbouring Helmand province; a serious drug producing and trafficking centre at the border with Pakistani Balochistan. From there (and on different smuggling routes in Helmand), a large quantity of the Afghan opium manufacturing is smuggled abroad by way of the Pakistani Makran coast, as far as to East Africa, and from there on to Europe. (1) Maiwand also accommodates the world of Band-e Timur, the home region of former Taleban supreme leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, who was killed in a US drone assault in Might 2016. This space is especially inhabited by the Ishaqzai tribe, which is likely one of the major pillars of the southern Afghan Taleban insurgency. Their members reportedly have been promoted notably underneath Mansur who belonged to this tribe himself (see AAN analysis right here).
  • Spin Boldak district to the east, alongside one of the principal transit routes to Pakistan, is the origin of assassinated Razeq and his brother and successor Tadin and the stronghold of their Atsakzai (Dari/Persian type: Achakzai) tribe, and their specific subtribe, the Adozai; the second largest tribe are the Nurzai. The Atsakzai are additionally robust on the Pakistani aspect of the border; their political leader Mahmud Khan Atsakzai is the region’s most necessary politician and a key participant on the nationwide degree. Spin Boldak’s district centre has the same identify is the province’s main official crossing level into Pakistan (and is among the nation’s most essential border crossings), with the border city of Chaman on the Pakistani aspect. Both are major smuggling hubs. This makes the city’s essential bazaar, Wesh, an essential economic hub. The street from Kandahar via Spin Boldak and Chaman results in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The district additionally has been repeatedly the world of Pakistani-Afghan border clashes and shelling, the newest being in October 2018.
  • The mountainous north with Khakrez, Shah Wali Kot, Mianeshin, Nesh and Ghorak districts, the latter being thinly populated, borders on Uruzgan and Zabul and is crossed by the key Kandahar-Uruzgan street and a parallel aspect street, that are primarily essential for supplying the latter province. These districts are additionally part of an east-west corridor of comparatively robust Taleban control. This reaches from Zabul by means of southern Uruzgan, northern Kandahar and Helmand to japanese Farah and southern Herat. Additionally they connect with different provide and smuggling routes that go in a south-north path from and to Pakistan. For example, north via Ghor to Faryab (which is another very lively frontline; current AAN analysis here), Sar-e Pul and Jawzjan. Shah Wali Kot district additionally hosts the situation of Dahla Dam, the second largest construction of its type in Afghanistan and the centre of an irrigation system (not for power producing), where an enlargement challenge is meant to start out this yr.
  • The distant east, with Arghestan and Maruf, additionally borders onto Zabul. These districts are inhabited by a large variety of Pashtun tribes. Arghestan’s largest groups are the Barakzai and Popalzai, with round 30 per cent each. The Barakzai are the most important group in Maruf, adopted by the Alizai tribe, rivals of the Atsakzai, together with in the cross-border smuggling business. For the insurgents, this space is strategically necessary to maintain open because it supplies entry to protected havens in Pakistan.
  • The thinly populated desert south has Registan (also called Reg, which suggests “sand”, and Shaga) and Shorabak districts, as well as Takhtapol, another unofficial district. The smuggling routes for items between Kandahar and Pakistan (not solely medicine) undergo each districts and provide revenue for the native administration, as well as the Taleban. Native individuals say numerous hashish processing factories exist in Shorabak district. Nevertheless, as the world is desert, there’s little everlasting presence of any aspect, and in addition only sporadic preventing. Nevertheless, as the Taleban commander liable for Shorabak and Reg informed AAN, now and again they assault areas in Shorabak from Pakistani territory and then fall back to tents on the Pakistani aspect of the border. This is also what Razeq had repeatedly alleged to media.

Over its whole east and south – from Maruf within the east to Reg within the south–Kandahar province has an extended border with Pakistan.

The Pashtuns are by far Kandahar’s largest ethnic group. The Pashtuns are divided into numerous tribes and sub-tribes with the confederation of the Durrani tribes being the most important one. It has two sub-confederations: the Panjpayi and the Zirak; the latter being the extra aristocratic one (with the Barakzai, their sub-tribe, the Muhammadzai, and the Popalzai, for instance), and from where Afghanistan’s kings used to return from. Kandahar’s desert south is partly inhabited by the ethnic group of the Baloch, who also inhabit close by areas throughout the borders with Pakistan and Iran. They typically still lead a nomadic life, and are intensively concerned in the smuggling business. The image is completed by Farsi/Dari-speaking Tajiks and Hazaras, who mainly reside in cities and cities.

Grave of Malalai, the Afghan heroine from the anti-British battle, in Maiwand district.

Graveyard of the Afghan ghazis who died in preventing the British invaders within the Battle of Maiwand in 1880.


  1. The four fronts around Kandahar city

Razeq rose into the province’s central place of energy between 2011 and 2013. This was after, first, the assassination of the provincial chief of police, Khan Muhammad Mujahed, in April 2011 (media report here), and, later, the assassination of President Hamed Karzai’s quasi proconsul for the area of Loy (Larger) Kandahar, his half-brother Ahmad Wali, in July 2011 (3). Razeq first targeting safety within the city of Kandahar (4). Underneath Mujahed, security there had rapidly deteriorated. Bashir Ahmad Nadem, a journalist in Kandahar, informed AAN that when Razeq came to Kandahar together with his border police in 2010 – redeployed from his native Spin Boldak (5) – the town was underneath siege, and much of the encompassing farmland was successfully underneath Taleban control. He stated that earlier than Razeq’s arrival, “the Taleban held a trial in nahia [city district] two of Kandahar city and hung an individual” – an instance that that they had a big foothold inside the town. Kabul-based worldwide security analysts registered an increase of the variety of Taleban attacks from eight on common per thirty days in 2007 to 42 in the second half of 2010, including many heavy assaults. A Taleban takeover of the town would have been an unlimited strategic success and an ethical increase for them.

When Razeq took command, first, he pushed out the Taleban from their former strongholds within the ‘farmland’ in Kandahar city’s suburbs (AAN evaluation of these events from 2015 here). He started with clearing operations in Mahalajat locality. This was previously agricultural land belonging to Dand district, but was then  administratively hooked up to nahia two of Kandahar metropolis. This went hand-in-hand with a fortification of the town and the strategic street to the airport. The International Disaster Group in a 2018 commentary stated he turned the town into a “closely guarded enclave.”In 2014, journalists and writer Anand Gopal, who has intensively researched the Kandahar region, counted 18 police checkpoints on this 15-mile drive.

Nevertheless, Razeq did not begin from nothing. The US troop surge ordered by President Barack Obama in 2009 kicked in throughout the following yr with Operation Hamkari, which concentrated mainly on western Kandahar. The operation resulted in vital setbacks for the Taleban. He additionally introduced expertise with him from having been a part of earlier US operations in the province.

The subsequent fronts Razeq opened up have been in Arghandab, in Panjwayi and Zheray within the west, and in Daman and other elements of Dand districts to the east. Arghandab had served because the Taleban’s principal base to attack the town since 2007/08. A 3rd entrance which Razeq concentrated his operations on was his residence district of Spin Boldak. This offered him and his associates, together with the broader Atsakzai tribe, with its financial foundation, and the street linking it with the provincial capital. (6)

A fourth area he was lively in was 5 districts within the north along the Kandahar-Uruzgan street. These have been much less in Razeq’s focus given their distance to the provincial capital and because they has seen the strongest improve in Taleban activity since late 2016 with some 40 per cent of the incidents registered by European Asylum Help Workplace, a EU institution, for the province for 2017. This example is especially palpable in Shah Wali Kot, the most important of the 5 districts. Until2017, virtually half the incidents in northern Kandahar occurred there and the development has not changed considerably since. As result of the preventing alongside the Kandahar-Uruzgan roads, the district, like all others in Kandahar’s north, had seen the most important conflict-related displacements province-wide as early as 2017 (see here, p164).

Throughout this preventing, Razeq “would typically lead his forces personally” as the International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in 2018.

The Herat gate, another considered one of Kandahar’s architectonic landmarks.


Razeq’s rule 

  1. The ‘American tribe’

Razeq built his power base and army clout with the help of 4 forces: the US army and the CIA (7); his Atsakzai tribe; powerful native household networks, that of the Karzai household being the primary one (8); and a network of commanders loyal to him. The successive commanders of the US army and the CIA seen Razeq as indispensable to protect Kandahar given his ruthlessness and anti-Taleban prowess. This was regardless of numerous well-sourced studies and media articles about abuses dedicated by his forces and his community’s involvement in felony activity. They courted him and offered him with “monetary and intelligence help” and some army backing, persevering with a apply established with Ahmad Wali Karzai and the Kandahar Strike Forces (KSF). (Allegations towards Ahmad Wali, that he was on the CIA payroll and performed a serious part in the southern medicine commerce could be read here; background on the KSF on this AAN analysis.) Many prime US commanders and diplomats posed with him for pleasant photograph ops (for example, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus, see here; here in 2014 with Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commander of the International Security Assistance Pressure’s (ISAF) Joint Command, US forces and ISAF commander Common John Nicholson). Canadian journalist Matt Aikins, who intensively researched Razeq’s position, wrote that McChrystal had determined that Razeq “was too useful to chop unfastened” (more background in this AAN dispatch). Regionally, his militia was referred to as the qaum-e amrikayi (the American tribe).

The US additionally offered main financial help in an try and economically cement Razeq’s hold over the areas the place he had pushed out the Taleban and to supplant the native opium financial system, a serious revenue supply for the Taleban (however not just for them). USAID began the large-scale, 25 million USD Kandahar Meals Zone programme in Maiwand, Zheray and Panjwayi in 2016. It aimed toward replacing poppy with various crops, an try to duplicate what was projected as a hit in neighbouring Helmand – however assessed as a bombastic failure by unbiased researchers (read David Mansfield’s 2017 report for AREU, p14, 40). (9)

The mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the Afghan empire in 1747 in Kandahar (in the background, the Chehel Zina hill – 40 steps – with the Greek inscription of King Ashoka, 260 BC).

… and contained in the mausoleum.


  1. The tribal factor and patronage

Razeq’s strategy included a robust tribal factor. The Nurzai and Ishaqzai tribes, the most important inhabitants in the districts of Maiwand and Panjwayi, which have been usually labelled ‘pro-Taleban’, turned the goal of his offensives in these districts. As they belong to the Panjpayi sub-confederation of the Durrani Pashtuns – in contrast to Razeq’s Atsakzai and the Karzai’s Popalzai, which belong to the Zirak sub-confederation (there are solely small teams of the other Pashtun tribal confederation, the Ghilzai, in Kandahar) – this created robust loyalties on each side of this divide. Many influential Panjpayi figures have been eradicated throughout Razeq’s campaign.

The necessary families have been among Razeq’s important supporters, the Karzais, with the previous president and his influence in the region and his erstwhile rival, first post-2001 provincial governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, whom Karzai had moved to Nangrahar meanwhile. Sherzai also had Razeq appointed commander of the province’s border police in Spin Boldak. The Karzais, in the meantime, after the assassination in July 2011 of the region’s unofficial strongman, Ahmad Wali Karzai’s, and a brief interregnum throughout which present defence minister Assadullah Khaled performed Ahmad Wali’s position, not had a robust native representative who might have taken Ahmad Wali’s position. A Kabul-based analyst referred to as what emerged a “de facto coalition” between Razeq and the Karzai household (more on this 2015 AREU paper). This turned much more necessary when relations between Razeq and Ghani deteriorated.

After Razeq’s assassination, the Karzai household threw their help behind Tadin. Media stories, with out giving names, talked about that Tadin was appointed on the request of “inhabitants and influential individuals of Kandahar.” AAN heard from local sources that the Karzai family was among the many first who lobbied for Tadin to replacehis assassinated brother in what was introduced as ‘tribal conferences.’ They have been obviously assuming that they might play the comparatively young, militarily and politically inexperienced Tadin. (10)

Razeq constructed a network of native commanders loyal to him to carry the areas from which the US troop surge and his follow-up operations had pushed out the Taleban between 2010 and 2014. Theyoftenbelonged to his tribe or wider community. This corresponded with the ‘clear-hold-build’ counter-insurgency technique pursued then by the US forces, notably underneath generals McChrystal and Petraeus.

Most of those commanders have been in the Afghan National Police (ANP) and the border drive, however some have been heads of Afghan Local Police (ALP) models. The so-called uprising forces (patsunian, in Pashto) had been widespread in other regions of Afghanistan (see for Ghazni here) however only performed a short lived position, and solely in Panjwayi district (see this AAN evaluation). They have been later merged into the ALP. Based on local sources, these commanders collected their own local ‘taxes’.

Razeq made positive a few of his allies have been appointed as police chiefs of key districts, akin to Panjwayi and Maiwand. Each of them, Sultan Muhammad in Panjwayi and Haji Lala in Maiwand, are Atsakzi,like himself. Haji Lala was the commander of the fast reaction unit on the Kandahar-Uruzgan freeway, the place he misplaced a foot in an assault. After he recovered, he was appointed to Maiwand district. Razeq gave Sultan Muhammad the unofficially perform of a commander of the tanzima, an area encompassing quite a few districts. This made him in all probability probably the most elevated ofhis sub-commanders. Additionally,the commanders and members of the ALP (AAN background right here) are often Atsakzai. The identical is the case in Zheray (with Shamsullah, higher often known as Shamsuk, as commander), and in addition Muhammad Anwar Anbiya, Razeq’s successor as commander of the provincial border drive police.

Among different key Razeq/Tadin allies are Nader Khan Barakzai and Jalo Agha. Barakzai, the ALP commander in Maruf district, had been the police chief of this district when he was injured in a bomb attack in 2017. He was appointed to the ALP after he had acquired remedy in India. Jalo Agha, the commander of the Panjwayi ALP is a Sayed from the identical district, and the brother of Fazluddin Agha, the district governor of Panjwayi (and earlier than of Spin Boldak) who was killed by a Taleban automotive bomb alongside together with his two sons in January 2012. Also, the current border drive commander, Muhammad Anwar Anbiya, is an Atsakzai.

Razeq’s network also included, as Gopal said in his reportage quoted above, “the ‘four horsemen’ (…) who are Abdul Razik’s major enforcers in the battle towards the Taliban.” (11) Each of them ran a personal jail. This included, based on Gopal’s sources, one police officer named Abdul Wadud Sarhadi (commonly often known as Jajo) who operated from a former US army facility near the Mirwais Mina neighbourhood of Kandahar city. Gopal wrote “the hypothesis went [Jajo] was orchestrating this soiled struggle with Razik’s blessing.” Jajo was assassinated in 2014. However, all of the analysts AAN spoke to agreed that none of them have been robust enough on their own to have the ability to exchange Razeq.

Nadem, the Kandahar journalist, confirmed that the ALP particularly stored the Taleban at a distance from the provincial centre for some years and made it troublesome for them to threaten the town immediately. The exceptions have been bomb attacks and a campaign of focused killings that is nonetheless ongoing. This activity additionally stored Kandahar province out of the war-related headlines for numerous years – the extreme preventing in neighbouring Helmand acquired far more consideration (AAN evaluation here), whereas similarly unstable Uruzgan is under-reported because of its remoteness.

On the political aspect, the Karzais and Razeq supported candidates for the provincial council in the course of the elections in 2014. The same analyst informed AAN that this resulted in his Atsakzai tribe being “considerably overrepresented.” A Kandahar-based Afghan journalist notably talked about Feda Muhammad Afghan, a member of provincial council, one other Atsakzai from Spin Boldak near Razeq. He stated Afghan was now “handling the tribal issues” within the district and was already lively amongst those that lobbied president Ghani in favour of Tadin’s appointment.

Furthermore, the facility distribution in Kandahar had diversified through the years earlier than and beneath Razeq. A Kabul-based analyst informed AAN that essential players included a few of the province’s MPs and the top of the provincial council, Haji Sayed Jan Khakrezwal, who can also be an in depth Karzai ally. The analyst stated the diversification had had extra of a stabilising relatively than a destabilising impact. Another Kabul-based security analyst advised AAN that, thus far, Razeq’s sub-commanders – none of them of province-wide importance and sometimes hated among the many native inhabitants – have been successfully securing their own areas of affect.

Climbing the Chehel Zina in Kandahar – and part of Babur’s inscription.


  1. Human rights violations and warfare crimes

Razeq’s profitable anti-Taleban operations came at a heavy worth. His forces have been accused, based mostly on detailed investigations and quite a few sources, similar to Human Rights Watch (in this 2015 report) and in depth articles by journalists Matt Aikins (for example, right here) and Anand Gopal (already quoted above) of normal human rights abuses, including “incommunicado detention, enforced disappearances, mass arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings during counter-insurgency operations” (see right here). Media reported Razeq’s “take no prisoners” strategy in 2014, when he was quoted as saying about Taleban fighters captured:

I’m grateful to my forces for killing all of them and not leaving their fates to the courts, which would merely demand a bribe [for their release]. The excellent news is that they [militants] will all be destroyed. My order to all my soldiers is not to depart any of them alive.

On this foundation, the UN Committee Towards Torture spoke of “quite a few and credible allegations indicating Basic Abdul Raziq, ANP Commander in Kandahar, as being extensively suspected of complicity, if not of private implication” in 2017. The ICG’s 2018 assertion that Razeq “did not battle by the principles” was a lot too well mannered for the state of affairs. However it was right once they said that “Some within the metropolis celebrated him for it; others within the countryside have been terrified.” (See more detail on this AAN dispatch.)

Sre masjed, the Purple Mosque, allegedly Taleban leader Mullh Omar’s ‘home’ mosque while in power.


Razeq’s positive factors and the Taleban’s pushback

As aresult of Operation Hamkari and Razeq’s offensives, Center Kandahar, Spin Boldak and elements of Panjwayi and Zheray have been largely introduced underneath authorities management. The mountainous north remained the scene for frequent fightinggiven that strategic roads to neighbouring Uruzgan province cross by means of this area. Concentrating on his precedence areas, Razeq left the extra peripheral districts – notably these in the excessive east and the desert south – largely to the Taleban. However this didn’t mean that the areas managed by Razeq have been secure or calm. Neither did it imply that the state of affairs remained static.

Since 2016, the Taleban have achieved a partial restoration in Kandahar province. This was mainly driven by their features in neighbouring Helmand and Uruzgan provinces (see AAN analysis right here and right here, for instance). This, in line with a Kabul-based Afghan analyst, put those in Kandahar “beneath strain to supply outcomes, too.” In autumn that yr, Afghan journalists reported a “spike in Taleban attacks“ with assaults on Afghan security forces and attempts “to overrun [the] districts centres” of Nesh, Mianeshin, Shah Wali Kot, Khakrez, Arghandab and Shorabak. This aimed, it was steered, maybe in some exaggeration, “to encompass the provincial capital.” The distribution of these assaults concentrated mainly on Kandahar’s north, but in addition affected have been elements of the west and the desert south.

Over 2017, the Taleban further intensified their operations. Based on a EU annual report for 2017 (p161), overlaying the interval from 1 September 2016 to 31 Might 2017, Kandahar province “saw elevated clashes in Might 2017 after the beginning of the Taliban’s spring offensive.” It registered 1,762 safety incidents for the province, the fourth highest number of all Afghan provinces behind Nangrahar, Kunar and Helmand. (It was approximately on the similar degree in the identical period of 2015/16, with 1,880 incidents, see right here.) UNOCHA categorised the districts of Maiwand, Khakrez, Shah Wali Kot and Maruf for the primary six months of 2017 among those areas from all over Afghanistan the place the battle was most extreme when it comes to the variety of incidents, the numberof civilian casualties, and the numbers of IDPs originating from the world. The conflict remained extreme also in Shorabak, Arghestan, Arghandab and Ghorak districts. Within the subsequent UNOCHA report (dated November 2017, quoted here, p86), Maiwand, Shah Wali Kot and Nesh have been within the highest class and Ghorak, Khakrez, Kandahar City (with Dand), Daman, Arghestan and Mianeshin have been within the category under. This indicated that the main target of the preventing remained in Kandahar’s north, but in addition moved nearer to the provincial capital (with preventing choosing up Maiwand, Arghandab and Dand), as well as to the east. In July 2017, the New York Occasions reported on a wave of large-scale assaults and assassinations towards installations and members of the ANSF (additionally see AAN evaluation right here) that

… centered on northeastern Helmand Province and northwestern Kandahar Province, and consists of the Helmand/Kandahar border area, Uruzgan Province, and northwestern Zabul. This region alone accounts for one third of the 45 districts presently beneath insurgent control or influence.

In line with international and Afghan security analysts in Kabul, different districts – corresponding to Maruf and Arghestan in Kandahar’s far east – have been static. Most areas and the population outdoors thesedistrict centres have been successfully beneath Taleban control and never much lively preventing occurred, aside from frequent assaults to take over district centres. Government forces werelargely unable to go on the offensive. However the European Asylum Help Office (EASO), an EU institution which repeatedly studies concerning the safety state of affairs of varied refugee nations of origin, still registered the numerous number of some 200 incidents for each districts in 2017. (There are not any later EASO, or different, district degree figures.)

Also Razeq’s and Tadin’s residence base, Spin Boldak, turned slightly extra risky over these years. The Taleban attacked border police installations within the district with automotive bombs and in commando fashion no less than 3 times between October 2015 and April 2016, causing a number of casualties (see here, p74). One other of these complicated assaults occurred in early March 2018, when at the least 4 policemen have been killed. In Might 2018, Razeq’s residence was attacked concurrently by no less than three suicide bombers killing two police guards, but lacking Razeq. In June 2018, Taleban attacked a street development firm compound within the district centre and abducted 13 engineers and 20 safety guards. Four security forces have been reportedly killed once they tried to rescue the hostages.

In February 2017, Razeq had survived one other assassination attempt by the skin of his tooth when a bomb hidden within the couch on the provincial governor’s office killed the visiting United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador and other Emirati and Afghan officers. Razeq had simply left the room, a undeniable fact that naturally nurturedsome conspiracy theories. The Taleban, who initially had claimed the attack, retracted that statement apparently after they realised that Emirati diplomats have been among the many casualties and then denied their involvement within the attack. They even sent a delegation to the UAE to keep away from harming their relations with an influential Islamic nation that when had officially recognised their regime. This bombing, together with the on-going Taleban campaign of targeted killings in Kandahar Metropolis, demonstrated that maybe Razeq not had full control over the town.

In the spring season of 2018, the Taleban additional accelerated their assaults on government security posts and district centres throughout the province. It remained the main target of a collection of devastating Taleban assaults towards ANSF amenities. These have been carried out with captured Humvee automobiles tuned into automotive bombs in 2018. The native Afghan security forces additionally suffered a large numbers of casualties with the upsurge in direct preventing. A high-ranking police officer in Kandahar advised AAN in February 2018 that “We have now been dropping almost 100 police in each rebel assault since previous couple of months,” notably from the arms of the Taleban ‘special forces’, the Sra Qeta (Pink Unit).

The federal government forces reacted with a big air and floor counterattack, for instance,in Band-e Timur in late January 2018. In accordance with government officials, 83 insurgents have been killed throughout this assault. There were also stories of heavy civilian casualties. (12)

Meanwhile, Kandahar remained one of the violent provinces countrywide. UNAMA registered the fourth highest variety of civilian casualties from Afghanistan’s 34 provinces for Kandahar in 2017; the very best quantity was brought on by IED explosions, adopted by ground engagements (see here, p4, 66). Based on the earlier UNOCHA report, “lots of Kandahar’s districts” have been inaccessible to the federal government (and nonetheless are). In accordance with a extensively noted countrywide BBC district research, all districts in Kandahar either had a “medium” degree “lively and bodily presence” of the Taleban (districts attacked at the very least 3 times a month) or a “low degree” one (district attacked at the very least as soon as in three months), besides Daman and the provincial capital.

Shrine in Daman district, Kandahar, near Samelzai village.


District centre management

In March 2017, the Taleban claimed that they managed five districts (Ghorak, Mianeshin, Registan, Shorabak and Maruf) and heavily contest four extra (Arghestan, Khakrez, Maiwand and Shah Wali Kot), whereas within the remaining nine districts, they did “not management any specific space” and“solely” carried out “guerilla assaults”. The terrorism watch website Long Struggle Journal (LWJ) that reported the claims thought-about them “to be credible.” Nevertheless, official Afghan authorities forces and unbiased local sources who spoke to AAN disagreed and stated the Taleban didn’t management any district absolutely at the moment. Every of the three SIGAR quarterly reviews in 2018 masking the time before Razeq’s assassination talked about seven districts of Kandahar each, either dominated by the Taleban, or “contested”,whereas all of the others have been described as underneath authorities management or influence.

Nevertheless, in Nesh, Mianeshin and Ghorak, as well as in Maruf, management over the district centres modified palms several occasions over these years. The centre of the least populated one, Ghorak, hadbeen captured 3 times by the Taleban, in November 2016 and September and November 2017, however recaptured by authorities forces again each time (media report here). Within the meantime, as local sources advised AAN on 4 November 2018, the government had relocated its district centre from Ghorak town (from which the entire district derives its identify) to Kaikak village – the one one in the whole district it still holds – in order that it nonetheless might say the ‘district [centre]’ was nonetheless beneath its management. The Taleban used this to maneuver into Ghorak town, claiming control of the district. In response to an area AAN source, something comparable happened in Mianeshin district in 2017 after the district centre fell into the palms of the Taleban; the centre was even shifted briefly to an area in neighbouring Shah Wali Kot district. Government and unbiased sources confirmed to AAN that sincethenthe unique district centre and a few close by villages have been once more brought beneath management of the federal government. In Nesh, the Taleban tried to take over its centre in March 2017 and on 13 February 2018, however failed to do so (a short media report here). From a village referred to as Nawa, close to Nesh district centre, for example, that “violently modified palms 4 occasions between government forces and members of insurgency in March 2017,” 700 individuals have been pressured to flee (see right here, p163).

Maruf centre was shortly overrun twice by the Taleban in September and October 2017.

Mosque in Samelzai village, Daman district.



Throughout Razeq’s rule, authorities control and security (regionally thought-about because the absence of Taleban management and large-scale attacks) in the province increased, and notably so in Center Kandahar. Taleban influence was pushed again from Kandahar City’s boundaries. But the post-script of Razeq’s rule isn’t considered one of clear successes. It’s fairly one in every of hard-won good points that have been always challenged by the Taleban and that came with a heavy worth of civilian casualties and human rights violations.

In distinction, the state of affairs in the more peripheral districts showed that there have been extensively underneath Taleban management, however static, ie with the Taleban controlling all or most territory and inhabitants outdoors the district centres, and never much lively preventing, besides frequent attacks to take over district centres, which was only briefly profitable. Government forces have been largely unable to go on the offensive.

In accordance with numerous Afghan and worldwide sources monitoring the local state of affairs, the Taleban took over management and dug in to the more peripheral areas from the place they’re now growing strain on Middle Kandahar and Razeq’s and Tadin’s house district of Spin Boldak once more.

Edited by Danielle Moylan and Sari Kouvo

Half 2 to comply with in a couple of days.


The research has been hampered by the absence of comparable units of knowledge for the districts degree, for example, about numbers of incidents or district control. The two most important andonly knowledge suppliers on this thus far, SIGAR and EASO, discontinued this reporting in 2018 and in 2019. Additionally, UNAMA’s common reviews about civilian casualties don’t include knowledge broken right down to regions, provinces or districts. The findings of the analysis have been mentioned and double-checked with numerous political, media and civil society activists in Kandahar, in addition to three analysts based mostly in Kabul (Afghan and international), who’ve been watching Kandahar for their organisations for a long-time. A few of the former and the latter requested to stay anonymous, however we’ve tried to differentiate between them in our attribution.

Melon seller and consumers, Kandahar city


(1) See Joanna Wright, “Path finders: Drug trafficking routes proliferate by way of Indian Ocean“, Jane’s Intelligence Assessment, September 2017, pp38-41.

(2) It appears that for a similar cause, Arghandab – further to Panjwayi and Zheray (the latter confirmed by local sources) – has been selected to function the pilot tasks in Kandahar province for the institution of the so-called Afghan Nationwide Army Territorial Forces (ANA TF) (see AAN evaluation here). Provincial governor Zalmay Wisa said as early as in March 2018 that,to be able to strengthen safety in Kandahar, there can be two districts with ANATF pilot tasks. Though he didn’t point out their names, AAN understood that this may occur within the two stated districts. In response to an area reporter, a 300-men robust unit has been decided for Panjwayi and the primary 82 members started their job on 17 December 2018 after receiving 4 months of coaching within the southern ANA corps.

Arghandab had already been the location of one of the earlier, experimental group defence forces, generally known as ‘Native Defence Initiatives’ (LDI) in 2009 (an AAN report here) which was transitioned into the ALP in 2010 (see right here) and since then has remained relatively resilient (see AAN evaluation right here).

(Three) Officially, the provincial governor, representing the central government that appoints him, and the chairman of the elected Provincial Council, must be the province’s major centres of power. In apply, nevertheless, Kandahar has an extended tradition of quasi-‘proconsuls’ who rule over the whole southern region, typically referred to as Larger Kandahar (Loy Kandahar), and in addition consists of the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Zabul and – typically – Nimruz and even Farah. This line included Ahmad Wali Karzai, who formally was ‘just’ the top of the Provincial Council, followed by Assadullah Khaled (media report here) from September 2012 to August 2013 when he was referred to as to Kabul to go the National Directorate for Safety, the nation’s intelligence service. In the course of the latter years of the Najibullah government, between 1989 and 1992, Common Nur ul-Haq Ulumi (now a presidential candidate), played an analogous position as army commander of the southern army zone.

The provincial governors play a much lesser position when it comes to political influence. This consists of the current one, Hayatullah Hayat, who has been appointed in February 2019 to exchange Zalmay Wisa, who had been wounded in Razeq’s assassination. Hayat also lacks local backing, as he isn’t from the province.

This 2015 AREU report by Ashley Jackson describes the current governance in Kandahar:

State institutions and formal guidelines lay on prime of the networks of access that type the bedrock of the social order in Kandahar, providing a thin veneer of government authority and legitimacy. (…) The actual power does not lie with state institutions however with the lads on the centre of the networks of entry that regulate political and economic life within the province.

There isn’t any evidence from the case of Kandahar that elites, even if weak or threatened, may be induced to offer public items or reform their behaviour. Even when elites seem to behave within the public good (reminiscent of with enhancing civil servant salaries, as Sherzai did, or taking measures to improve security, as with Raziq), outward appearances are deceptive. Entry to public items, together with necessities like justice and security, is ruled by a closed system through which a choose few have access. If some public good has arisen because of this political manoeuvring, it is more likely to be little greater than an unintended side-effect.

(4) When the term security is used in this text, it refers to its army stability-centres ‘kinetic’ model, primarily utilized by the army, which is about territorial and population control. It will facilitate comparingmetrics and tendencies from the Razeq and post-Razeq interval. It has been extensively proven by a variety of sources, also reflected by AAN, that the relative security of Kandahar city and a few of its environment established beneath Razeq, to which official and non-governmental Afghan and different sources typically discuss with as constructive, got here at a excessive value in human rights and included abductions, torture, disappearances and extra-legal killings on a large scale.

(5) Razeq was deployed there in 2010 already, even before he was officially made police chief. Before, Razeq and the fighters beneath his command had performed an lively position in US-inspired anti-Taleban operations outdoors Spin Boldak since 2001 when the Taleban regime was toppled (read AAN reporting). First,he served as his district’s Afghan Nationwide Border Police (ANBP) unit, de facto just a formalised local tribal militia that when (during Razeq’s childhood) had fought the Soviet occupants and later the Taleban, and which had been revived by the US forces in Kandahar in 2001 (see here and here). It managed the profitable Spin Boldak border crossing, including the unlawful drug and different trade going via it (see here). Razeq was formally appointed its commander in 2008 solely, in 2011 appearing and later permanent provincial police chief,while maintaining his ANBP command. (The ANBP in the meantime had been renamed Afghan Nationwide Border Pressure.)

For more biographical background check with this AAN evaluation, the in depth articles by Canadian journalist, Matthieu Aikins, here and right here, as well as to this paper co-authored by AAN colleague Jelena Bjelica.

(6) It was reported in 2010 that Spin Boldak’s customs publish only collected one fifth of it was anticipated to do, in line with the top of Afghan customs, indicating that much of it was ‘privatised.’

(7) There are nonetheless numerous US and Romanian troops in Kandahar underneath the Resolute Help Mission. They’re deployed at the city’s former international airport, as well as in Camp Gecko in Kandahar metropolis, the former compound of Taleban chief, Mullah Omar, the latter troops possible being of the CIA. The Romanians primarily function guards at the US/NATO-run army Kandahar airfield. Camp Gecko can also be the bottom for the Afghan commando unit generally known as Zero-Three, successor to the CIA-managed Kandahar Strike Drive (more about it here or here).

(eight) Razeq’s relations with Karzai’s successor, Ashraf Ghani, have been much less beneficial. There were numerous reviews that Ghani needed to remove Razeq after the latter had spoken out in favour of primary Ghani opponents, including the provincial governor of Balkh, Atta Muhammad Nur, who was in an analogous robust position of locally-based power, as was Razeq. Atta was lastly removed after years of makes an attempt to do so in early 2018 (media report here).

(9) Kandahar has been Afghanistan’s second main opium cultivating province after Helmand in 2017. In Kandahar province, opium poppy cultivation elevated by 37 per cent from 20,475 hectares in 2016 to 28,010 hectares in 2017 (the document excessive of 33,713 hectares beneath opium cultivation was registered in 2014). The primary opium poppy cultivation districts have been Maiwand, Zheray, Nesh, Spin Boldak and Panjwayi, in line with the UNODC 2017 Opium Survey. In line with Adam Pain, Maiwand, Zheray and Panjwayi also stay the most important poppy growing areas in Kandahar.

The Kandahar Meals Zone (KFZ) was designed as a five-year (July 2013-August 2018), 45.4 million USD programme funded by america Company for Worldwide Improvement (USAID) and carried out by the for-profit NGO International Aid and Improvement (IRD). KFZ was designed to determine and handle the drivers of poppy cultivation in target districts of Kandahar Province (with Zheray and Panjwayi districts as main targets) by means of activities that may improve entry to irrigation water, broaden various livelihood opportunities, help small companies and build the capability of the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) to manage its personal various improvement programmes. USAID granted IRD a two-year extension to proceed contributing to the sustained reduction in poppy cultivation in Zheray and Panjwayi. The KFZ programme operates in two exercise areas: 1) Agricultural Improvement to rehabilitate irrigation canals, improve water use efficiency, upgrade present vineyards, set up new orchards, increase yields of area crops, and produce off-season greens underneath greenhouses; and a couple of) Authorities Coordination and Capacity-Constructing for local government businesses answerable for agricultural and rural improvement. The KFZ has six cross-cutting exercise areas – Gender, Communications, M&E, Setting, Synergy and Sustainability – that promote behaviour change among poppy rising farmers, adoption of latest applied sciences and farming practices, and development or rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, with the goal of increasing licit revenue opportunities within the rural financial system (see here and here).

(10) There’s virtually no biographical knowledge that exists about Tadin. One media report mentions that he has no army coaching. Even Aikins doesn’t mention him at all in his two ground-breaking articles about Razeq. Tadin can also be not recognized to have played any army position in his assassinated brother’s buildings, but has been involved on the monetary aspect, ie handling revenue and ‘taxes.’ In response to sources in Kandahar, he has now been replaced by Abdul Khaleq, another Razeq brother who ran a enterprise in Dubai and was referred to as again to Spin Boldak.

(11) The other three have been:

  • Janan Mama, Razeq’s successor as ANBP commander in Spin Boldak; he was killed by a magnetic mine on 18 April 2018in Kandahar metropolis when getting into his automotive after a go to to the provincial governor’s workplace (media report right here);
  • Esmat, Janan Mama’s brother, had been commander of the guards at the Kandahar governor’s workplace at the time of Razeq’s assassination since 2013; he additionally succeeded his brother Janan Mama as ANBP commander in Spin Boldak after his assassination; in response to native sources he was removed from each his posts by Tadin after Razeq’s killing;
  • Nader, district police chief of Maruf; he fled the world after the Taleban attacked and destroyed the district administrative compound and the police headquarters on 30 June 2019 (see part 2 of this dispatch): he is reported to have left the world for Arghestan.

Names offered by Anand Gopal, e-mail change on 10 July 2019, with further AAN info.

(12) Human Rights Watch alleged in a report revealed on 21 February 2018, that the Special Forces Unit of the National Directorate for Safety (NDS) had “summarily executed civilians [which] might have been in retaliation for current Taliban atrocities“:

Native residents advised Human Rights Watch by telephone that Afghan safety forces opened hearth on men as they tried to flee, killing about 50 Taliban fighters and a minimum of 20 civilians. One witness stated, “when the airplanes came we fled. However as the individuals have been operating away the forces have been capturing them.” Safety drive personnel allegedly dragged some males from their houses and then shot them.

Human Rights Watch requested the government and the US army to conduct “a immediate and neutral investigation” of the difficulty. Defence Ministry spokesman, Common Waziri, informed the media on 7 February 2018 that the government would soon begin its investigations. However AAN was unable to seek out any info that this has actually occurred.

Native sources came up with contradictory studies. Provincial police spokesman, Durranai, rejected the claim and informed media that only two residents have been killed because they have been aiding the Taleban and had offered shelter to them. Fakhruddin Faez, the top of the Afghan Unbiased Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in Kandahar advised AAN that the world was turned in to “a complete battle floor”, but added that their “main info” solely confirmed that “two or three civilians have been killed” and two different victims have been unidentified as but and that “some sources informed us that they are civilians however the different sources stated they have been Taleban medical docs who have been treating their injured.” Haji Muhammad Nader, a member of the Kandahar provincial council informed AAN, “It was a battle, and it can’t be prevented that there have been civilians casualty. Typically in preventing some civilians are killed which couldn’t be prevented”.

Another AAN source in Kandahar informed AAN that local individuals had indeed given the Taleban accommodation and meals, however that the Taleban knew concerning the assault prematurely and had advised the civilians to evacuate. He added: “Indeed there were no civilians within the place of assault.”