5 more districts fall to Taliban

KABUL (Tolo News): Five districts have fallen to the Taliban in the last 24 hours, including Shor Tapa in Balkh, Chak and Sayed Abad in Maidan Wardak, Rustaq in Takhar and Arghistan in Kandahar, adding another layer of complexity to the alarming situation that has emerged following the fall of territory to the militant group.
Takhar lawmakers in Parliament said Rustaq is the 13th district in the northeastern province that has fallen to the Taliban in recent weeks. “The Shirkhan border town is fully under Taliban control. Reports indicate that Aqina border town has also collapsed and Ai Khanum town, that shares a border with Tajikistan in Dasht-e-Qala district, is also under threat,” said Hamiduddin Yuldash, an MP from Takhar.
The fall of strategic districts in the north, south and west has created concerns over the possible infiltration of Taliban into the income-generating territory in the country, including the Shirkhan town in Kunduz on the border with Tajikistan. Kunduz’s provincial council and a private sector entity said that they are concerned about the loss of Shirkhan’s incomes to the Taliban and warned of threats posed to other border towns – the Aqina border town in Faryab and Ai Khanum in Takhar.
“Security problems have increased recently. Sometimes the customs department and the finance ministry tries to transfer its employees from one place to another,” said Hujjat Fazli, the CEO of Harakat, an entity facilitating investment opportunities for the private sector. “We ask the government to pay serious attention to Shirkhan border town, to retake it,” said Khaluddin Hakimi, a member of the Kunduz provincial council.
Meanwhile, Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, former vice president, warned the Taliban that he will return to Jawzjan in the near future and will suppress the Taliban after consultation with the president. “I will begin my work. I will suppress them. I am calling on the security forces to come to me when I arrive,” Dostum told TOLOnews.
The deputy minister of interior for policy, Naqibullah Fayiq, said that the Taliban’s focus is on income-generating areas, including border towns, but pledged that these areas will be cleared of the group. He said that 11 districts have been retaken from the Taliban in the last three days.
Figures collected by TOLOnews indicate that 108 districts have fallen to the Taliban in the last two months, but security forces have retaken 10 of the districts during this period. Meanwhile, two army commanders said the Taliban made multiple combined attacks overnight attempting to break key defense areas in the northern city of Pul-e-Khumri, but their attempts failed as they faced resistance by security forces. One of these attacks in the Block Ha area in Pul-e-Khumri continued for three hours, commando forces said.
“Their attacks continued last night, but we resisted and there is no issue and we have enough equipment and personnel,” said Imam Hassan, an army commander in Baghlan. However, residents pay the highest price as many of them have been displaced. One resident of the city, Mohammad Azim, said his home has changed into a stronghold, and he has lost assets and his cousin was killed.
“The Taliban came from one direction, and I went to the roof and told them to allow me to leave and then they can do anything here. They told me that they will not do anything. They told me that tanks will come, I said they will not fire. I asked them not to open fire. But they opened fire and I escaped with my nephew but he was martyred,” Azim said. Some public uprising forces who have gone to Pul-e-Khumri city from Narin district in Baghlan said they have been stationed in the Band-e-Do area to prevent the Taliban from entering the northern city.
“This is the frontline. The Taliban are on the other side of those gardens that have been connected to the Dand-e-Shahabuddin area,” said Imam, commander of public uprising forces in Nahrin district. Another resident of the city, Mohammad Aziz, a young man, who looks after his home alone and has sent his family members to a safe place, had a story similar to Azim’s.
“People have left. These homes have been turned into strongholds,” Aziz said. The Taliban started their offensives on Pul-e-Khumri 10 days ago and so far clashes are underway on the outskirts of the city while the key highway that connects Kabul with the north has remained closed to traffic during this time.