(Kunduz) The Taliban increased their control over northern Afghanistan on Sunday and captured three other provincial capitals, including the city of Kunduz, in a major offensive that the army apparently cannot stop.
Posted on Aug 8, 2021 at 8:22 am Updated at 11:54 am
At intervals of a few hours, after heavy fighting, the insurgents took possession of Kunduz, which they had surrounded for a few weeks. Then they took Sar-e-Pul, and at the end of the day Taloqan, the capitals of the provinces south and east of Kunduz. You now control five of the 34 Afghan provincial capitals.
According to Zabihullah Hamidi, a resident of Taloqan, capital of Takhar Province, the violence started in the morning and the Taliban captured the city “without much fighting” while officials and security forces fled the city.
“The Taliban are all over town with their white flags on pickups and Humvees. Some shoot in the air to celebrate [leur victoire] He told. “We are afraid and do not yet dare to leave our homes”.
A security officer confirmed the escape of Afghan forces and local officials to a neighboring district.
“The government did not send us any aid and we withdrew from town this afternoon,” he said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the arrest of Taloqan and made sure that “security was restored”, as well as those of Kunduz and Sar-e-pul who fell that morning.
“The Taliban have taken control of all important buildings in the city,” an AFP correspondent told Kunduz.
The city with around 300,000 inhabitants, which was destroyed by the insurgents twice in 2015 and 2016, is a strategic hub in northern Afghanistan, between Kabul and Tajikistan.
The capture of Kunduz is the Taliban’s most important military success since the start of their offensive in May, which began with the withdrawal of the international armed forces and must be completed by August 31.
After conquering vast rural areas, they focused on urban centers and encircled several provincial capitals from the beginning of August.
“It’s total chaos,” said Abdul Aziz, a resident of the center of Kunduz, who was reached by AFP by phone.
At the end of June, the Taliban captured the Shir Khan Bandar border post in Kunduz on the border with Tajikistan, a nerve center of economic relations with Central Asia.
According to the Ministry of Defense, government troops tried to capture key areas of Kunduz. “The commandos have started a clean-up operation. Some places, including the national radio and television buildings, have been cleared, ”he said.
“Capturing Kunduz is really important because it frees up many Taliban fighters who can then be mobilized elsewhere in the north,” emphasized Ibraheem Thurial Bahiss, advisor to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
After Kunduz, Sar-e-Pul also fell to the Taliban. They had already conquered Sheberghan, further north, the stronghold of the famous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostom on Saturday.
Human rights activist Parwina Azimi said on the phone that administrative officials and the rest of the armed forces had withdrawn in barracks about three kilometers from Sar-e-Pul.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said reinforcements, including special forces, had been sent to Sar-e-Pul and Sheberghan.
“The cities that the Taliban want to take will soon be their cemeteries,” he added.
Kabul’s inability to hold the north of the country could prove critical to the government’s chances of survival. Northern Afghanistan has always been considered an anti-Taliban stronghold, where resistance to them was strongest when they came to power in the 1990s.
The Taliban ruled the country between 1996 and 2001, enforcing their ultra-rigorous version of Islamic law before being ousted by an international coalition led by the US.
On Friday, the insurgents also occupied the city of Zaranj, the capital of the province of Nimroz (south), on the border with Iran.
Kandahar (south) and Herat (west), the country’s second and third largest cities, have also been under attack for several days, as has Lashkar Gah (south), the capital of Helmand province, one of the insurgents’ strongholds.
The speed of the Taliban’s advance surprised observers, but also the Afghan security forces, despite the help of the US Air Force.
The United States has stepped up its air strikes, admitted Commander Nicole Ferrara, spokeswoman for the US Army Central Command, who said Saturday: “US forces have carried out several air strikes in the past few days to defend our countries. Afghan partners . ”
The fighting and shelling have forced hundreds of thousands of Afghans to flee their homes.
On Saturday, twelve passengers on a bus were killed in a roadside mine explosion while trying to escape the town of Gardez in southeastern Paktia province.
“I lost my mother, my father, my two brothers, my two sisters-in-law and other family members,” said Noor Jan.