In mid-May heavy clashes broke out between security forces and Taliban fighters which resulted in parts of the province falling to the insurgent group – including parts of the provincial capital.
In the wake of this assault, which was carried out by an estimated 2,000 Taliban fighters, serious questions were raised - especially on how so many insurgents were able to reach Farah city and stand their ground for so many hours before being pushed back.
In a bid to find answers, TOLOnews journalist Tamim Hamid traveled to Farah and with the help of some security sources, obtained documents that shed some light on the situation.
In these documents, it appears that a range of problems exist in the area, including a lack of cooperation between the different branches of security forces, a shortage of weapons and ammunition, a shortage of troops, and the late payment of salaries to security forces.
The documents also indicate that in the weeks leading up to the Taliban’s attack on Farah city, officials had been assessing the security situation and the province’s vulnerability.
These documents also indicated that before the attack, local security officials had warned about problems they were facing in terms of implementing their security plan, that the Taliban were already on the outskirts of the city, that there were not enough security force members in place and that morale was low as these troops were not being paid on time.
Security sources speaking to TOLOnews said these were the key reasons for Farah’s problems and that the issues should have been addressed.
In response to this, Mohammad Radmanish, the defense ministry’s spokesman said: “As war itself is a tool for disrupting cooperation; in Farah the lack of cooperation was evident. But then, our units, that cooperated with each other, were able to push the enemy out of the province.”
Asked by Hamid how the Taliban fighters were able to gain entry into the city, soldiers stationed at outposts on the outskirts of Farah said the Taliban had advanced using alternate routes.
The security sources said however that there are check posts on both sides of the roads leading to the city, but because of the problems facing soldiers, they were reluctant to do their jobs properly.
After hearing this, Hamid visited a check post at the city’s gate and asked the soldiers themselves how the Taliban entered the city.
In reply, soldiers rejected claims that the insurgents had entered the city through the gates and said they had used alternate routes.
The soldiers did however say they had not been paid for a few months.
“There are soldiers who have been stationed here but have not received their salaries for two, three and six months. We have only received promises,” said one police soldier, Abdul Wahab Sediqi.
“If the soldiers leave their posts due to not receiving their salaries and benefits, then it will be very difficult for government,” said another soldier, Wahid Paikan.
The interior ministry’s spokesman Najib Danish confirmed this and said: “In some areas, our forces have not received salaries for three months and the reason is that they were not registered on the ministry’s (new) biometric system.”
But security sources in Farah said that because of the problems with salaries not having been paid, a number of soldiers stationed around the city left their posts during the attack and refused to fight the Taliban.
However, local officials told Hamid that over the past few months, the Taliban has been working to increase their presence in the province and has managed to turn Farah into a conflict hot spot in the country.
“We can be on one side of Posht Rod district, or the bazaar, and they (Taliban) are on the other side. In Balabolok district - we are in the district center, and in two to three areas, but they are in villages. In Gulistan district, we are in one part, but they are in most parts of the district. It means the enemy has more fighters in Gulistan and Balabolok districts and they mostly organize attacks from these districts,” Farah governor Abdul Basir Salangi said.
TOLOnews’ investigation meanwhile found that insurgent groups are trying to infiltrate other provinces through Farah.
The investigation also found that no area in the province was secure and that of the five districts in the province, 80 percent of the area is plagued by security threats. The remaining 20 percent also has to deal with occasional clashes and explosions.
On May 16, Taliban insurgents attacked Farah city and according to government officials at the time, 25 security force members were killed in the day-long battle.
The provincial governor Basir Salangi told TOLOnews after the incident that about 300 insurgents had been killed in the clash which was carried out by about 2,000 Taliban fighters.
“First 1,000 Taliban insurgents attacked Farah districts on Tuesday (May 15) and after the first attack over 1,000 other insurgents also joined the attack,” he said.
According to him, the Taliban brought together fighters from Helmand, Herat, Ghor and Zabul provinces. Reinforcements were however eventually able to push the fighters back and regain control of the city.