(Herat) Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces resumed on Saturday for the third year in a row on the outskirts of Herat, the large city in western Afghanistan where UN buildings were attacked the day before.
Posted on Jul 31, 2021 at 11:24 am Updated at 2:28 pm
In the morning, however, the Afghan armed forces appeared to have loosened their grip on the city of 600,000, the third largest in Afghanistan.
Soldiers, including members of commando units, and Afghan police have returned to the administrative centers of the Injil district surrounding Herat and Guzara, south of the city, the scene of intense fighting, has returned.
Afghan troops were mainly stationed in the Pashtun Pole area near the site of the UN Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) in Herat, which was attacked on Friday.
But fighting resumed that afternoon in the city’s suburbs and in these two districts, said Herat Province Governor Abdul Saboor Qani.
“Right now there is fighting in the southern and southeastern suburbs of Herat city,” particularly in the Pashtun Pul and Pul Malan areas, two bridges about ten kilometers south of the city on Saturday afternoon.
Afghan security forces and “resistance forces” (anti-Taliban militias) are fighting to push back and destroy the Taliban. We tried to spare the population as much as possible, but the enemy took up positions in private houses. We move cautiously to avoid civilian casualties.
Abdul Saboor Qani, Governor of Herat Province
Fighting is also taking place in the immediate vicinity of the airport, according to Qani, who appeared on Afghan television in combat suits with an assault rifle in his shoulder, alongside Ismail Khan, a powerful local warlord who turned against the Taliban, whose militiamen joined the Afghan armed forces in Herat Lend a hand.
“Terror Among The Inhabitants”
“People left their homes to flee to the city of Herat […] This creates terror among residents, ”Gul Ahmad, who lives in Injil district, told AFP.
Abdullah Abdullah, former vice president and chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, tweeted Saturday that the Taliban had executed a senior Afghan army officer after they captured him near Herat.
“The Taliban executed Abdul Hamid Hamidi, the commander of the 1st Brigade of the 207th Zafar Regiment, in violation of all martial laws and Islamic and humanitarian norms after they captured him,” he said.
“Shooting prisoners of war is a cowardly act that violates all rules of war and shows the cruelty of the Taliban,” he added.
The Taliban recently occupied several districts in Herat province and two border posts there, Islam Qala, the main crossing point with Iran, and that of Torghundi with Turkmenistan.
By Thursday and Friday they had already approached the city limits, around which Afghan troops and militiamen of Ismail Khan were stationed.
The entrance to the Unama offices was attacked “by anti-government elements”, particularly with a rocket launcher, on Friday, killing an Afghan police officer guarding the building and injuring several, according to the UN mission.
The Taliban have conquered vast rural areas of Afghanistan since the beginning of May, thanks to an offensive that was launched across the country in parallel with the withdrawal of international forces.
The Afghan armed forces have so far offered little resistance and essentially only control the large, partially encircled provincial capitals and most of the major axes.
Fight in the south
In the past few days, the insurgents have also increased their pressure on two other provincial capitals in southern Afghanistan: Kandahar, the country’s second largest city and birthplace of the Taliban, and Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand.
Fighting continued in the suburbs of Kandahar (population 650,000) on Saturday, where Afghan army helicopters bombed the Taliban, an AFP correspondent said.
Thousands of residents have fled the surrounding areas affected by the clashes in recent weeks to seek refuge in the city.
In Kandahar, people are concerned and more than three quarters of shops are closed, the correspondent said.
In Lashkar Gah, a small private hospital with ten beds, to which the Taliban had sought refuge, was largely destroyed during the fighting on Saturday.
“Taliban fighters broke into the hospital and kicked the staff out. Commands [afghans] arrived and then asked for air support, ”Agha Mohammed, who lives nearby, told AFP.