Taliban Attack a Provincial Capital in Afghanistan’s North, Freeing Prisoners

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban pushed their method into a provincial capital in Afghanistan’s northwest on Wednesday, liberating prisoners there and threatening to overrun the town itself.

Details had been murky from the town, Qala-i-Nau, the capital of Badghis Province, the place preventing was widespread. Videos posted on social media confirmed some residents welcoming Taliban fighters on motorbikes as they entered.

“The entire city is under control of the Taliban,” stated Abdul Rahim Rahin, a member of Parliament from Badghis, although his assertion couldn’t be instantly confirmed. Reports from the town in the afternoon stated that airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force had helped push again the Taliban fighters.

Despite dire reviews from the bottom, a assertion from the Ministry of Defense on Wednesday afternoon stated the Taliban had been “fleeing” and that “in the next few hours, all parts of the city will be cleared.”

The assault on Qala-i-Nau is the most recent in the Taliban’s current offensive, which started in earnest as U.S. and worldwide forces started withdrawing from the nation in May. In the span of simply over two months, the Taliban have managed to grab at the very least 150 of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts.

Other provincial capitals in the nation’s north — lengthy often called an anti-Taliban stronghold — are additionally underneath siege, with rebel fighters on the periphery of at the very least three different vital cities.

The Taliban’s current victories have put the Afghan authorities in an more and more tough place. Hundreds of Afghan troops have surrendered in previous months, forfeiting important quantities of weapons and gear to the already well-supplied rebel group. Last week greater than a thousand Afghan troops fled into neighboring Tajikistan to flee the Taliban advance.

What American forces stay in Afghanistan have offered some help, with fleeting air assist that now originates from exterior the nation.

Caught in the center of this brutal new chapter of the warfare are civilians, dozens of whom have been wounded and killed together with tens of 1000’s who’ve been displaced.

Mohammad Yosouf Farahmand, a physician in the provincial hospital, stated that at the very least one civilian had been killed in the course of the current preventing and greater than a dozen had been wounded.

On Tuesday, the Taliban broke into the Badghis provincial jail and freed these inside, stated Mirwais, a police officer in Qala-i-Naw who like many Afghans goes by one identify. Dozens of inmates have escaped.

Taliban assaults on provincial capitals are prohibited underneath the deal on troop withdrawal that the United States signed with the rebel group final 12 months. The Taliban appear to have adhered to that in their present offensive, as they’ve sought to keep away from civilian casualties and dangerous publicity. But in some circumstances, native Taliban commanders have taken benefit of their features and attacked some cities.

The battle unfolding in Qala-i-Naw, a metropolis of about 50,000 folks, has more and more seemed like a direct assault, with the remaining authorities forces pinned down. It is unclear, nonetheless, if the Taliban will attempt to maintain the town outright.

“The city will fall to the Taliban if air support does not arrive,” Abdul-Rahim Khan, a police commander in a close by district, stated in an interview because the preventing progressed.

On Tuesday, Taliban fighters ambushed a massive convoy of Afghan safety forces on their strategy to Qala-i-Nau, killing dozens. Though the precise variety of casualties is unclear, Mr. Khan stated greater than 60 troops had been killed and that greater than a dozen others had been taken prisoner.

Afghan air and commando forces, the spine of the federal government’s protection, are already stretched skinny by preventing elsewhere in the nation, a key a part of the Taliban’s technique to exhaust them.

It is not only the Taliban’s navy prowess that has precipitated the collapse of the federal government forces. Low morale and native feuds between militia leaders and authorities officers have additionally contributed.

The Afghan authorities has retaken some territory, although its features pale in comparability to the Taliban’s. Its rising navy technique appears to encompass consolidating what forces stay round key cities and inhabitants facilities.

Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s nationwide safety adviser, informed reporters on Tuesday that the federal government “has a plan” to retake the districts, and that some outposts had been “relocated” due to a lack of provides. Some regional teams, skeptical that the Afghan safety forces can maintain out for much longer, have begun to muster their very own militias to defend their dwelling turf, in a painful echo of the nation’s devastating civil warfare in the 1990s.

Increasingly absent in the struggle are U.S. and worldwide forces.

On Tuesday, the U.S. navy stated that the withdrawal course of was greater than 90 % full, as a part of President Biden’s directive to finish the American navy mission in Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Last week, U.S. forces left Bagram Air Base, as soon as the biggest U.S. base in the nation, in the midnight. The abrupt departure, with little coordination, led to looting on the bottom till Afghan safety forces arrived.

A Pentagon spokesman attributed the miscommunication to operational safety considerations.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff reported from Kabul, and Asad Timory from Herat, Afghanistan. Reporting was contributed by Fatima Faizi in Kabul and Eric Schmitt in Washington.