When Kunduz, one of Afghanistan’s major cities in the North, fell into Taliban hands at the end of September, residents in neighboring Baghlan began to feel the danger. A steady stream of cars was seen leaving the provincial capital, Pul-e-Khumri, heading for areas perceived to be safer, such as Mazar-e-Sharif, or even Kabul. The price to hire a car skyrocketed, from 600 afghani per person to to 4,000 or even 5,000 afghani.
Those who stayed behind prepared to defend themselves and their families. A group calling itself the Second Season of Resistance Jihad, numbering nearly 1,000, armed itself with machine guns, RPGs and other types of weapons, and stood shoulder to shoulder with the armed forces.
It worked, at least for now.
The Tala wa Barfak district of Baghran fell into the hands of the Taliban on October 1, two days after they took Kunduz. But the Afghan security forces, assisted by local defenders, drove out the insurgents after just a few days. The government forces also reopened the Baghran Kunduz highway, which had been blocked for more than a week.
The efforts of the local defenders attracted the attention of high-ranking officials. Minister of Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani visited Baghlan last week and praised the Second Season of Resistance.
“The government should include jihadi leaders and their commanders in military operations,” he said “Religious leaders also have a big role to play in mobilizing the people to support security forces and to provide the security.”
They will have their work cut out for them.
The Taliban have established a presence in several districts of Baghlan, including Pul-e-Khumri, Baghlan-e-Markazi, Tala wa Barfak, Dahan-e-Ghori and Doshi.
Abdul Rashid Bashir, Baghlan’s deputy police chief, said that the Afghan forces would do their best to provide security for the province.
“The Taliban are the enemies of religion,” he said. “They follow neither Islam nor humanity.”
The residents of Pul-e-Khumri are feeling the effects of the increased insecurity. For several days after the fall of Kunduz, schools and shops were closed, and the city was tightly controlled by the military.
Things have eased a bit, but residents are still uneasy. In early October, President Ashram Ghani appointed Abdul Satar Barez as Baghran’s new provincial governor. Hopes are high that he will be able to improve security.
Gulbuddin, who sells boloni (a type of pancake) on the streets of Pul-e-Khumri, said that sales had dipped drastically after the fall of Kunduz. Now most customers are back, he said.
Ferooz, a milk seller, said the same. But he is firm that the government should do something.
“They must destroy Taliban shelters in this country,” he said.