The fundamentalist Taliban group took this Sunday (8) one of the most important steps to date in the military offensive to take control of Afghanistan by subjugating the city of Kunduz, a large urban center in the northeast. from the country. The rebels also took the northern town of Sar-e Pol.
The new territorial conquests show that the group is gaining ground at an accelerated pace, since in just three days they claimed control of four provincial capitals, the first of them on Friday (6).
The capture of Kunduz was considered strategic because it is the main crossing point to the mineral-rich regions of the north of the country, in addition to being an important urban center, with 375,000 inhabitants.
“Violent clashes started yesterday [sábado] in the afternoon. The entire seat of government is under the control of the Taliban, only the military base and the airport belong to the National Security and Defense Forces, which are resisting, ”said Amruddin Wali, member of the local government. Taliban spokesman Zabijullah Mujahid said the group was set to take over the airport as well.
The city had been surrounded by the armed group for weeks and fighting began on Friday evening, with mortars and heavy weapons, to which the government responded with airstrikes. Health officials in Kunduz said 14 bodies, including those of women and children, as well as 30 injured, were taken to hospital on Sunday.
In Sar-e Pol, capital of the province of the same name, the group took the seat of local government, the official residence of the governor and the command of the police. A military base has been surrounded.
The Taliban offensive began three months ago, when the insurgents decided to forcibly regain control of the country they ruled between 1996 and 2001. The advance began after the United States announced that they would withdraw their troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation. Since May, the group has taken control of large rural areas and crucial border posts in lightning strikes after the announcement of the withdrawal of international troops, which is expected to end on August 31. The Americans’ departure was criticized by the Ghani government, which blamed the United States for the enemy’s military advance.
After encountering little resistance in rural areas, the Taliban directed the offensive towards major urban centers, surrounding several provincial capitals.
Friday (6), the group had already taken the first provincial capital, Zaranj, capital of Nimroz, in the southwest of the state and near the Iranian border to try to defend other cities. The city itself is of little strategic importance, but it has sounded the alarm bells for the governors of each region.
In less than 24 hours, the group claimed to have captured Sheberghan, the capital of Jawzjan, after intense clashes. The information was also confirmed by provincial politicians, but the country’s security forces still deny that the rebels have taken control, saying they are still in the city.
The group’s advance north, away from its traditional stronghold, to the south, and close to the country’s traditional trading partners, such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, is drawing attention.
Police and authorities also said on Sunday that Taloqan, capital of Takhar province, still in the north of the country, is also under pressure from the armed group.
The Taliban have also carried out attacks in the capital, Kabul, further affecting the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which has been democratically elected and enjoys the support of Western countries.
On Saturday, the group killed an Air Force pilot, Hamidullah Azimi, with a bomb planted in his car in the country’s capital. Authorities said five people were injured. Azimi had been trained by the US Army and served in the Air Force for four years.
The Taliban resumed the attack. According to the Reuters news agency, the attack is part of a campaign by the group to kill US-trained Afghan soldiers – seven pilots have already been killed. The Afghan Air Force played a critical role in containing the group with aerial bombardments, as the Taliban did not have a plane.
On Friday, the military had already assassinated, in the capital, the head of the media and information center of the central government, Dawa Khan Menapal. On Thursday, the district chief of Sayed Abad was also assassinated in Kabul. Two days earlier, the Taliban attacked the home of Defense Minister General Bismillah Mohammadi, which left eight people dead – the minister survived.
The episodes are part of a series of killings committed by the Islamic fundamentalist group to weaken Ashraf Ghani. Dozens of activists, journalists, officials and judges who fought to maintain the current regime have been killed by the Taliban in recent weeks.