Taliban tightens grip over Afghanistan; levies high taxes, recruits forceful

woThe situation in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate as Taliban insurgents gained control of about half of the district’s centres, multiple news agencies reported. Afghan local authorities in the northern province said on Wednesday that the Taliban are forcing the local people who live in areas under the group’s control in Balkh province to pay them part of their income. They are also recruiting locals forcefully, local media reported.

“There are only about 20 Taliban fighters inside the district building compound and the police headquarters; the rest of them have taken up positions inside the villages to collect Zakat (charity),” Mohammad Yousuf, the acting district governor of Kaldar district, was reported saying by the news agency ANI.

The number of Taliban fighters in the district is about 200 fighters, but they are looking to recruit more fighters from among the people, local media said in its report.

The Taliban has also imposed taxes on the shops and local markets, which locals say that it “beyond their capacity” to pay. In case one fails to pay the money that the Taliban is harassing them, ANI reported quoting Mohammad Hashem Mansoori, a District Governor for Shortepa district in Balkh province.

Due to this, business activity in the region has also been affected, it also reported. “The people have serious concerns, the business owners are very fearful because of the businesses,” said Sifatullah, a resident in Hairatan, as per ANI.

Meanwhile, security forces have assured them that they are fully prepared to defend the Afghan people and said that they will soon launch an “offensive” against the Taliban. “The morale of our forces is very high; they are fully prepared and have the strength to defend the city. Soon we will launch our offensive operations,” said Khanullah Shuja, the commander of 209 Shaheen Army Corps.

Insecurity has been growing in Afghanistan in recent weeks, largely spurred by fighting in its provinces as US-led foreign troops complete their withdrawal and the Taliban launch major offensives, taking districts and border crossings.

More than 200 of the 419 district centres were under Taliban control as of this week, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had informed the media on Wednesday. While the insurgent group had not taken over any provincial capitals, they were putting pressure on the outskirts of half of them.