Taliban launch offensive to take key Afghan city – Newspaper

HERAT: The Taliban launched an offensive on Friday against a key city in western Afghanistan, authorities said, the latest in a wave of attacks while the United States pushes for an agreement that allows it to begin withdrawing troops.

The fight began early in the morning when insurgents briefly seized an Afghan army recruitment center in the city of Farah, the capital of Farah province.

Afghan forces, with the support of the United States, were able to push back the combatants a few hours later, said Farah police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib.

"Helicopters with the cooperation of (US) troops launched air strikes and bombed Taliban positions in the city of Farah," he said.

"The Taliban have been expelled from the city, but the fight continues outside." He said 10 Taliban fighters had died, along with an Afghan paramilitary police officer.

Farah province, a remote region of poppy cultivation that borders Iran, has been the scene of intense fighting in recent years, and it has long been feared that its capital will be vulnerable.

In May of last year, the Taliban made a great attempt to capture the city of Farah, but were eventually expelled by Afghan and US forces.

US Army colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said Friday that US assistance to Afghan forces was ongoing.

"We continue to support our ANDSF partners while thwarting the Taliban attack on Farah," he said, using the abbreviation for the Afghan police and army.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi had previously said a "mass operation" was under way.

The Taliban have been intensifying their operations in recent days, even while negotiating with Washington an agreement that would see the United States withdraw troops from Afghanistan in exchange for several security guarantees.

On Saturday, the group tried to seize the provincial capital of Kunduz, in the north, and sporadic fighting continued on the outskirts throughout the week.

And on Sunday, they launched an operation in the city of Pul-e Khumri, the capital of the neighboring province of Baghlan.

The capital, Kabul, has also been shaken by consecutive bombings this week that have claimed dozens of lives.

Farah provincial governor Mohammad Shoaib Sabet said that 15 people were injured, citing local hospitals, and said that air strikes had been carried out against the militant group. Small clashes continued in the city, he said. A Farah resident, Shams Noorzai, said the Taliban took an army recruitment center and set it on fire. All the stores had closed, he said, and some people were trying to run away. Later, the governor said security forces had retaken the recruitment center.

Ghani postpones trip to the US UU.

The president of Afghanistan postponed a planned visit to Washington early next week to discuss talks between the United States and the Taliban about the end of the longest US war, a person familiar with the negotiations said on Friday.

The development arose after the US envoy. UU. Negotiating with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, returned abruptly to Qatar to start unexpected talks with the insurgents about the agreement he described as complete a few days ago. The agreement "in principle" to begin a withdrawal of US troops only needed the approval of President Donald Trump, Khalilzad said Monday.

It was not immediately clear why President Ashraf Ghani's visit was postponed.

Since Khalilzad's announcement, two horrific Taliban bomb attacks in the Afghan capital, Kabul, one of which killed an American service member and objections to the agreement by the Afghan government and several former US ambassadors in Afghanistan have pressured Khalilzad, as many wonder if an agreement will really bring peace.

The Taliban have explained their increase in deadly attacks, even in the capitals of the northern provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan last weekend, as necessary, to give them a stronger negotiating position in talks with the US. UU., A position that has horrified Afghans and others while dozens of civilians die. .

The Afghan president was excluded from negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, and during Khalilzad's visit to Kabul this week, Ghani was shown the agreement, but was not allowed to keep it. The Taliban have rejected negotiations with the Afghan government, seeing him as a puppet of the United States, although he has expressed his willingness to meet with Afghan officials in a personal capacity.

This week, the Ghani government raised objections to the agreement, echoing the concerns of former US ambassadors that a total withdrawal of US troops moves too quickly and without requiring the Taliban to meet certain conditions, such as reducing violence , could lead to a "total civil war." like the one that enveloped the country in the 1990s after a rapid Soviet withdrawal and before the Taliban came to power.

Posted in Dawn, September 7, 2019

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1503993/taliban-launch-offensive-to-take-key-afghan-city


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