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

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban entered two provincial capitals in northern Afghanistan Sunday, native officers stated, the end result of an rebel offensive that has overrun dozens of rural districts and compelled the give up and seize of lots of of presidency forces and their army tools in latest 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 go away 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 shifting into town’s periphery. The Taliban clashed with safety forces into Sunday night time, after a sequence of takeovers in previous days in the capital’s surrounding districts. In one such latest battle, the Taliban killed more than 20 of the federal government’s most elite forces. In one other, dozens of presidency troops surrendered collectively after operating low on ammunition.

The looming U.S. withdrawal means Afghan troops might 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 preventing 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 diminished due to restrictive guidelines of engagement, and plenty of American army plane are actually primarily based outdoors 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 — by means of native mediation, army offensives and authorities retreats — have taken greater than 50 districts, in keeping with knowledge 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 think about what territory they’ll 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, a lot 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 arms in the final yr. 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 scenario doesn’t bode properly for presidency forces and militias below 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 1990s 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 power. The small group of pilots and plane are dealing with their own array of issues as worldwide forces and upkeep contractors go away the nation.

On Saturday, in a transparent signal of the deteriorating safety scenario, the Afghan authorities appointed a brand new appearing minister of protection, minister of inside and armed forces chief.

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