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Taliban Attack Kunduz City, Alarming Afghans

Taliban militants on Friday attacked several districts surrounding the northern city of Kunduz, which briefly fell to them last year. But even as Afghan officials said the security forces had successfully fought off the assault, residents expressed alarm that the insurgents were again at the city's gates.

The assault on Friday was the first major push by the Taliban after the group declared that its annual offensive had officially begun this week. But in fact, insurgent attacks and battlefield gains continued at a heavy pace all through the winter.

Intense fighting continued in multiple districts of Kunduz late on Friday, and a crucial highway connecting Kunduz to Takhar Province remained blocked. Military aircraft flew constantly over Kunduz city, which remained largely deserted during the day, and airstrikes were reported in the suburbs that had been the launchpads for last year's insurgent takeover.

"Tonight will be a difficult night for Kunduz," said Amruddin Wali, a member of the provincial council. "The possibility of the city falling again is there."

Local security officials also said that they had help from American Special Operations forces in Kunduz to plan their operations. But the extent of that help, and how far it reached outside Kunduz city, was not clear.

Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, the spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that American military advisers were involved in a training capacity and "in some cases, at a tactical level" throughout the north. But he said that, at the moment, no additional United States forces had been moved to Kunduz because of the fighting.

Gen. Muhammad Qasim Jangalbagh, the police chief of the province, said the Taliban attacked at least six districts early Friday morning as they tried to advance into the city.

The general said that the insurgents had been repelled, and that reinforcements had been dispatched to the districts. But local officials and elders criticized the government, saying that few real measures had been put in place to keep the city from falling as it did last year.

After the government broke the Taliban's three-day grip on the city in September, the insurgents returned to the surrounding districts. In some cases, the Taliban were able to reinforce their bases there with weapons and equipment they had looted from the military bases in the city, the officials said.

"There is a lot of talk, and no action," said Mr. Wali. "If there were measures in place, it would not come to this again. The problem is that the army, at the corps level, has capabilities, but when the police are attacked they do not come to help. There is no unity of command."

The attacks on Friday were launched simultaneously across several districts. While General Jangalbagh reported that the Taliban had sustained heavy casualties, officials and local elders in Khanabad District said that at least 30 militiamen fighting for the government had been taken captive by the insurgents.

In the district of Imam Saheb, fighting continued all day, the district's chief, Amanuddin Qureshi, said. Taliban fighters had sneaked into the district in the middle of the night and began attacking security posts in three areas of the district as early as 5 a.m., he said.

In their attack in Char Darah District, the Taliban used American Humvees that had been stolen from the Afghan security forces, as well as heavy weapons, according to a local police commander, Gul Ahmad.

Current and former officials in Kunduz have long warned that the military equipment the Taliban stole during their takeover posed a serious threat to the city.

[Source: By Najim Rahim and Mujib Mashal, The New York Times, Kunduz, 15Apr16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 18Apr16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.