Taliban Enter Key Cities in Afghanistan’s North After Swift Offensive

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban entered two provincial capitals in northern Afghanistan Sunday, native officers stated, the fruits of an rebel offensive that has overrun dozens of rural districts and compelled the give up and seize of tons of of presidency forces and their army gear in current weeks.

In Kunduz metropolis, the capital of the province of the identical identify, the Taliban seized town’s entrance earlier than dispersing all through its neighborhoods. Kunduz was briefly taken by the Taliban in 2015 and 2016 earlier than they had been pushed again by American airstrikes, particular operations forces and Afghan safety forces.

“Right now, I hear the sound of bullets,” stated Amruddin Wali, a member of Kunduz’s provincial council. “The Taliban have appeared in the alleys and back alleys of Kunduz, and there is panic all over the city.”

The setbacks come at a harrowing second for Afghanistan. American and worldwide troops — now principally primarily based in Kabul, the capital, and at Bagram airfield, are set to depart the nation in weeks following President Biden’s announcement in April to finish the U.S. battle in the nation by Sept 11.

To the west of Kunduz in Maimana, the capital of Faryab Province, Taliban fighters appeared on the metropolis’s entrance earlier than transferring into town’s periphery. The Taliban clashed with safety forces into Sunday evening, after a collection of takeovers in previous days in the capital’s surrounding districts. In one such current battle, the Taliban killed greater than 20 of the federal government’s most elite forces. In one other, dozens of presidency troops surrendered collectively after working low on ammunition.

The looming U.S. withdrawal means Afghan troops will probably be left with out the sort of fight help that has stopped such Taliban offensives in the previous.

“If reinforcements come from Kabul, and aircraft support the security forces, the Taliban cannot enter the city,” stated Sebghatullah Selab, the deputy of Faryab’s provincial capital. There was additionally combating on Sunday close to the doorway of Taliqan, the capital of Takhar, a province that neighbors Kunduz.

U.S. air help in previous weeks has been considerably lowered due to restrictive guidelines of engagement, and lots of American army plane are actually primarily based exterior Afghanistan. Afghan air energy is struggling to make up the distinction.

On Friday, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, is to satisfy President Biden on the White House to debate the U.S. troop withdrawal.

In the final 24 hours, round a dozen districts have fallen to the Taliban — principally in the nation’s north. Since May 1, when U.S. forces formally started their withdrawal from the nation, the Taliban — via native mediation, army offensives and authorities retreats — have taken greater than 50 districts, based on information collected by The New York Times.

Only a small variety of districts have been retaken by authorities forces because the defeats have pressured Afghan commanders to contemplate what territory they will maintain following the American departure.

But Rohullah Ahmadzai, a protection ministry spokesman, told Al Jazeera Saturday, “There is a new, robust and effective plan to retake areas from which we have pulled back our forces.”

There are roughly 400 districts in the nation, lots of which have been contested and managed by the Taliban for a while. But earlier than the U.S. withdrawal started, solely a handful of districts had exchanged fingers in the final year. In the previous, many such takeovers performed out with the Taliban seizing territory that was later retaken by the federal government.

In May, Taliban forces entered Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province in the nation’s south. Afghan forces and U.S. airstrikes managed to push the insurgents again.

The present state of affairs doesn’t bode properly for presidency forces and militias underneath the command of northern Afghanistan’s energy brokers, a few of whom are infamous warlords who’ve held onto energy for the reason that nation’s civil battle in the Nineteen Nineties and the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Those militia forces, typically primarily made up of ethnic Tajik, Uzbek and Hazaras, have lengthy seen the north as their stronghold from the Taliban, a primarily Pashtun group that rose in the south.

Even with adjoining militia forces, authorities troops are low on morale and are regularly besieged in remoted outposts and bases that may be resupplied solely by the Afghan air drive. The small group of pilots and plane are dealing with their very own array of points as worldwide forces and upkeep contractors depart the nation.

On Saturday, in a transparent signal of the deteriorating safety state of affairs, the Afghan authorities appointed a brand new appearing minister of protection, minister of inside and military chief.

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