How the Taliban Gained the Upper Hand in a Key Province in Afghanistan by Shashank Bengali and Sultan Faizy – Los Angeles Times
… As early as 2015, shortly after the last U.S. forces left Ghazni province under a NATO drawdown, the Taliban controlled more territory there than the Afghan government did, according to the Afghanistan Analysts Network, a Kabul-based think tank.
The insurgents mostly confined themselves to rural areas, collecting taxes and adjudicating disputes. But starting this April, Taliban fighters began seizing the centers of “safe” districts close to the provincial capital, the country’s sixth-largest city, about 80 miles southwest of Kabul.
In most cases, fighters withdrew from the district centers — which house the offices of local administrators — as Afghan forces retook control within hours or days.
But the attacks reinforced a message that has become abundantly clear in recent years: With nearly half of Afghanistan’s people living in areas where the government doesn’t have full control, the Taliban could attack anywhere.
In August, the militants attacked the city of Ghazni, unleashing four days of brutal fighting that left more than 100 Afghan soldiers and police dead. It took a barrage of U.S. airstrikes and the arrival of several dozen U.S. special operations troops — some of whom sustained injuries in the fighting — to take back the city.
But the Taliban were only getting started…