Fighting in Afghanistan escalates ahead of US withdrawal from the country: Taliban militants have managed to take control of a number of provinces and the central border crossing with Tajikistan in the north of the country, and they are approaching some of the largest cities in the country.
The Afghan Ministry of Defense announced today (Tuesday) that security forces have managed to take control of three strategic districts in the north of the country – Blech district in Blech district, Dushi district in Baglan province and Ali Abad district in Kunduz district – and that at least 80 Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting.
Local sources, however, reported that at least the main border crossing with Tajikistan and 13 districts across the country had fallen to the Taliban in the past day. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah said in the afternoon that movement forces had taken control of the Shalamzi district in the southern Afghan province of Zabul and that “a police station, intelligence center and large army base had been cleared of mercenaries and the sub-district was under the complete control of the mujahideen.”
At the same time, fighting continues near the capital cities of the northern provinces. One of the main focal points is the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the fourth largest in the country and the most important in northern Afghanistan, and today photographs of Taliban militants were distributed near the city gates. “Thousands of military forces and armed civilians are preparing to defend the city, the suburbs and the lost provinces,” said Muhammad Farhad Azimi, governor of Blach district, whose capital is Mazar-e-Sharif.
Battles are also raging near the town of Condoz, the fifth largest in the country and reported on many residents who fled the area. “They destroyed us, there is no way to get to Kabul or other areas,” said Einudin, a city resident. “Condos under attack from three or four directions, the situation is disturbing, the shops are locked,” added another resident named Immodin.
And Ahid Omar, senior adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, has accused the Taliban movement of proving that it has not changed and is not interested in real peace. “The Taliban are the ones who kill journalists, clerics,” he said. “The Taliban are the ones going everywhere and destroying bridges, schools and clinics.”
The fighting comes amid continued withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country, which is set to end by September 11, exactly 20 years after the terrorist attack. However, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that due to recent events, the military is expected to slow down. Despite the intention to meet the schedules.
“The situation in Afghanistan continues to change as the Taliban continue to carry out these attacks and raid sub-district centers and the violence is still too high,” Kirby said. “If there is a need to change the pace, or the extent of the reduction of forces, on any given day or week, we have the flexibility to do so.”