The Taliban took control of the center of Almar district in Faryab province on Thursday afternoon at about 1pm, according to local security sources.
Naqibullah Fayeq, provincial governor, said that the security forces have retreated from the center of the district to “prevent casualties of civilians and local forces.”
The sources said that “about 40 local security forces were surrounded the Taliban but they managed to escape and move to Khawja Osman base which is 4 km away from the center of Almar.”
“The Taliban have captured the district governor's office and the police HQ but the forces are about 200 meters away from the area,” according to sources.
The Ministry of Defense responded with this statement:
"The published news about the fall of Almar district of Faryab province is incorrect. ANDSF conducted an operation in the district and cleared off vast areas from Taliban and the district is under control of ANDSF."
This comes as the acting district police chief Mohammad Amin Patang joined the Taliban on Wednesday afternoon, said Abdul Karim Yourish, a spokesman for the provincial police chief.
He was appointed as acting police chief of Almar three months ago, Yourish said.
The security forces have been under pressure in recent weeks as “they surrounded by the Taliban,” sources said.
The Taliban has not yet commented.
'All is not well in Afghanistan'
The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, has warned about Afghanistan’s situation, saying that the state remains under threat and that “all is not well” in the country.
“Right now, that state is under threat. In the wake of the February 2020 withdrawal agreement, all is not well,” Sopko said. “Taliban attacks have actually increased since the agreement was signed, as have assassinations of prominent officials, activists, journalists, aid workers, and others.”
Sopko said that “a Taliban offensive on Kandahar City last October – as peace negotiations were ongoing – may well have succeeded were it not for US air support.”
“Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have achieved little so far, and time will tell as to whether the new Biden administration initiative will bear fruit,” he said.
He added that the Afghan government’s fears for its survival are exacerbated by the knowledge of how dependent their country is on foreign military and financial support.
“If the goal of the reconstruction effort was to build a strong, stable, self-reliant Afghan state that could protect our national security interests as well as its own – it is a mission yet to be accomplished,” Sopko said.
Speaking on 2021 SIGAR High-Risk List, Sopko said that it appears that even the Taliban understand Afghanistan’s dire need for foreign assistance, as one of the commitments the US had to make was to seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government.
“The situation remains extremely fluid, but, notably, numerous press reports indicate that Secretary of State Blinken recently reiterated to President Ghani that a withdrawal of US forces by May 1st remains under consideration,” he said, adding that “US forces in Afghanistan now stand at 2,500, the lowest level since 2001, and a 98 percent reduction from their peak.”
He also said that as the US Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin have stated, “it remains in our nation’s interest to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven or breeding ground for terrorists that can harm the United States.”
“Neither SIGAR nor today’s report takes a position on what those future missions should look like, nor do we have an opinion about the future presence of US forces in Afghanistan. We leave those decisions to the policymakers,” he further said.
But he said that as he noted two years ago when they released “last High Risk list," Afghanistan faces a multitude of challenges, many of which have only been exacerbated since then.