Video courtesy of the New York Times.
Twenty-four hours after the Taliban’s successful seizure of the provincial capital in Kunduz, the counter-attack launched by Afghani security forces is disintegrating, according to the New York Times. After their initial offensive failed, government forces retreated to the airport outside of the city, to attempt to rally for another assault. Taliban paramilitary forces are moving South towards the airport where they are likely to launch another strike on the already frayed security forces in their sanctuary.
Promised reinforcements have failed to materialize in the field. Contrary to the government’s assurances that a column of relief forces is massing at the airport, roadside bombs and ambushes seem to have seriously delayed the northward advance of security units sent to buttress the Afghani counterattack.
Yesterday CNN reported that hundreds of prisoners previously held in Kunduz have been freed from detention by the Taliban as a result of the attack. Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, a spokesman for the Kunduz police chief, commented that, “[The Taliban has] freed more than 500 inmates, who [are now flooding] the streets of Kunduz.”
As the crisis for President Ashraf Ghani’s government continues today, he struggled to reassure the public that the Taliban’s push to win back Kunduz would succeed. Contradicting reports that a rout is underway in the major northern city, the embattled President insists that the situation is the result of restraint by his security forces rather than a case of tactical failure.
According to Ghani, “The problem is that the treacherous enemy is using civilians as a human shield…The government of Afghanistan is an accountable government and cannot bombard inside the cities, and it will not.”
The fall of Kunduz is the Taliban’s most significant military take over since 2001. It’s been only one year since coalition forces retreated from Afghanistan, leaving the security forces behind to maintain order in the fledgling democracy which has emerged from the Islamic Emirate in a bloodbath that has resulted in the deaths or serious injuries of nearly 200,000 people since 2001.
As Afghanistan’s fifth largest city, the loss of Kunduz, even if the Afghan government manages to take it back soon, is a dark potent of instability. The Taliban–which has been losing recruits to ISIS–seemed beaten this summer after admitting that their longtime leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has been dead for almost two years. After a rocky start as the Taliban’s new leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour can now point to his conquest of Kunduz to underscore the credibility of his organization as a threat.
[Images via Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images/Gandhara]