WORLD Taliban push on cities sees clashes deepen


Taliban push on cities sees clashes deepen

China Daily

13:13, August 02, 2021

Afghan internally displaced families are pictured upon their arrival from the outskirts Kandahar, who fled due to the ongoing battle between Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces, at a refugee camp in Kandahar on July 27, 2021. (Photo: Agencies)

Attack on key airport underscores stakes as Afghan forces try to hold back militants

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan-Afghan and Taliban forces clashed again on the outskirts of several major cities over the weekend as the militant group stepped up a nationwide offensive in which a key airport in the south come under rocket fire.

The attack on the airport in Kandahar, the country's second-largest civil facility, on Saturday night prompted the suspension of flights early on Sunday, a local official said.

"The initial information found Taliban militants fired three rockets on Kandahar International Airport, and two of them struck the runway late on Saturday night. Local authorities were inspecting and trying to repair and reopen the runway as soon as possible," the official said anonymously, adding that there were no casualties.

Kandahar, the capital of the southern province of Kandahar, has been the scene of fierce clashes as Afghan government security forces engage in heavy fighting to prevent the Taliban militants from advancing.

Airport chief Massoud Pashtun said repairs to the runway were being carried out after the two rockets hit, in the hope of services resuming later on Sunday.

The attack came as the Taliban inched closer to overrunning at least two other provincial capitals, including nearby Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province.

"We have asked for special forces to be deployed in the city," Attaullah Afghan, head of the Helmand provincial council, told Agence France-Presse.

Farther west in Herat, the capital of the province of the same name, fighting continued from Saturday night on the city's outskirts, with airstrikes targeting Taliban positions.

Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for the Herat governor, said about 100 militants had been killed in the attacks.

During a round of fighting in the city on Friday, the main Herat compound of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan came under attack from rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire.

"This attack against the United Nations is deplorable, and we condemn it in the strongest terms," said Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan.

Fighting has surged since early May, when United States-led foreign forces began a final withdrawal from Afghanistan that is now almost complete.

Despite being in its final stages of withdrawal, the US military has carried out airstrikes targeting the Taliban.

The Pentagon said on Tuesday that both conventional warplanes and armed drones were used, but did not provide details. However, a US official gave some details and said there had been a significant increase in strikes since July 20.

"The US military has been engaged in a limited way, but in a significant one that has impact in meeting our obligations to defend Afghan forces when they are under attack," said Ross Wilson, the US' top envoy in Kabul.

Political agreement

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said last week that a political agreement was the only solution for the Afghan crisis and the only way to end the bloodshed.

"The only solution for the Taliban is a political agreement, a political agreement supported by the people. Because without a national consensus and people's support, peace does not break out," Ghani told a meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board in Kabul on Wednesday.

The meeting is a decision-making body established by the Afghan government and the international community that provides a platform for strategic coordination in Afghanistan.

"The departure of the international forces gives us the opportunity to frame and implement our sovereignty strategies in the manner suited to our unique conditions and history as well as the benefits of regional connectivity and global cooperation," Ghani said of the US withdrawal.

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