Fighting reaches outskirts of major cities

KABUL (Tolo News): Fighting has reached five cities in the north as many districts around provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban in the last few weeks, mostly in Faryab and Takhar provinces.
Lawmakers and residents warned that fighting around the cities of Maimana in Faryab, Taluqan in Takhar, Pul-e-Khumri in Baghlan, Sar-e-Pul city in Sar-e-Pul and Kunduz city in Kunduz province have raised concerns among the people. The main route that connects Kabul with northern provinces has been closed to traffic for the last two days because of Taliban influence in Doshi district in Baghlan.
The government announced that security forces had retaken two districts in Takhar; however, many districts across the country that are in Taliban control are being reported: Sources said that security forces left the three districts of Sholgara, Dawlat Abad and Kushinda in Balkh; the Qala-e-Zal and Imam Sahib district in Kunduz; Doshi and Julga districts in Baghlan; Aqcha district in Jawzjan; and Zazai Aryub district in the eastern province of Paktia in the last 24 hours. “There isn’t anyone to help. The fighting has reached the entrance to Pul-e-Khumri,” said Ajmal, a resident of Pul-e-Khumri.
“How long will this bloodshed continue?” said Enayat, a Pul-e-Khumri resident. A woman, a resident of Balkh, who was on the way to Kabul said she lost her husband who was caught in a crossfire. “Suddenly there were clashes. We asked the driver to stop. He didn’t. Glass fell on the people. I lost my father,” said Sahar, a Balkh resident.
Activists from Faryab who have come to Kabul said that the city of Maimana, the capital of Faryab, is on the verge of collapse and that there is a need for urgent action by the government. “Last night, Faryab residents had no place to spend the night. They were displaced. I don’t know why the government does not pay attention to this?” said Frozan Khalilyar, an activist from Faryab. Pul-e-Khumri and Taluqan residents meanwhile said security forces are in dire need of reinforcements.
The fighting has also gripped the northern provinces of Sar-e-Pul and Kunduz. Kunduz temporarily fell to the Taliban back in 2015 and 2016. “The situation in Kunduz is deeply concerning. The government officials have no plan to address it,” said Amruddin Wali, a member of the provincial council in Kunduz. But the Defense Ministry said that thorough plans are underway to suppress the Taliban.
“They are fighting the enemy with full force and the security and defense institutions–from the leadership to the soldiers on the battlefield–are making efforts to bring positive changes in those areas,’’ said Rohullah Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the ministry. Figures collected by TOLOnews show that at least 60 districts have either fallen to the Taliban or are currently being fought over by government forces and the Taliban. “They are selling districts and are leaving them. It is not a tactical retreat. It is a deal,” said Abdul Qadir, a Kabul resident.
Meanwhile, military experts and sources have reported that delays in deploying reinforcements to districts – most of which are in rural areas – have been a major cause behind the fall of district centers to the Taliban in the last two months. Sources in some provinces said that the exaggeration by the Taliban about the number of their fighters and about the expansion of their attacks on other districts is another reason behind the evacuation of districts without any resistance.
Sources said that at least a dozen districts fell to the Taliban. In the past 48 hours, the centers of five districts fell to the group. In many cases, the security forces did not receive reinforcements and evacuated after hours of fighting, locals and other sources said. The districts include Sholgara, Dawlat Abad and Kushinda in Balkh province. “Many areas are falling to the armed opposition because security forces remain under siege and they have no equipment or supplies,” said Raihana Sadat, a member of the provincial council in Balkh.
At least 600 security force members in Dasht-e-Archi district in Kunduz retreated to Khawaja Bahauddin District in Takhar, according to sources. Later during the same day, Qala-e-Zal district in Kunduz was also evacuated by security forces. “The Imam Sahib district will also fall if the situation continues,” said Khaluddin Hakimi, a member of the Kunduz provincial council.
In Faryab, meanwhile, in addition to the fall of six districts to the Taliban, fighting has inched closer to the capital, Maimana. MPs from the province said the lack of reinforcements has led to the crisis in the province. However, the Defense Ministry said that reinforcements have been sent to Maimana.
“It is questionable,” said Sayed Anwar Rasul Oghli, head of a youth movement in Kabul. “People know that the security forces stationed in Qaisar, Dawlat Abad, Shirin Tagab and Khwaja Sabz Posh (districts) retreated without any resistance.” “We had at least 300 people. Many of them fought and said they were faced with an offensive attack. They did not know the number (of the Taliban), but it was exaggerated, and they were told that at least 5,000 to 6,000 Taliban were attacking them,” said Fawzia Raufi, an MP from Faryab.
The Defense Ministry also said that all options are on the table to improve the security situation. “You witnessed the clearance of many areas in Takhar last night,” Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmdzai said. “I am ready. It is not only Qaisar (district)… I am ready to go to Faryab, to Jawzjan, or any other place that has fallen, even areas that are too challenging. I am ready to go and respond to the Talibs,” said Nizamuddin Qaisari, former police chief for Qaisar district in Faryab. Figures collected by TOLOnews show that at least 50 districts have fallen to the Taliban or have been evacuated in the last two months. Many of these districts are still contested and have seen ongoing fighting over the last few weeks.