(KABUL, Afghanistan.) LATEST: Afghan government forces have struggled against #Taliban assaults on several major cities as the insurgents stepped up a nationwide offensive that saw a key airport in the south come under rocket fire overnight on Sunday #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Aug.02: The government deployed more security forces to the western city of Herat on Sunday a day after the Taliban advanced closer to the central parts of the city.

#AceDailyNews says that the #Taliban strikes major cities in Afghanistan, rockets halt flights out of Kandahar as hundreds of commandos were deployed to the western city of Herat while authorities in the southern city of Lashkar Gah called for more troops to rein in the assaults and US say 650 troops will remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main military withdrawal.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/taliban-detain-afghan-peace-marchers-100km-journey-190604083646328.html

Clashes Intensify in Herat as Reinforcements Arrive

Local officials said that the clashes intensified in villages in the western parts of Herat city.

Abdul Rahman Rahman, senior deputy of the Interior Ministry, also visited Herat city on Sunday and said that a large-scale operation will be launched against the Taliban in Herat.

“We have come with the security forces from Kabul and these forces have joined Herat forces. We will act as soon as possible to defend the Herat people,” he said.

The clashes have been ongoing in the western parts of Herat city and Guzara and Karokh districts over the past four days.

At least 20 people were killed, including 16 security force members, and 90 people were wounded in the past four days of fighting in Herat, according to data from Herat’s regional hospital.

Local officials said that “the Taliban has suffered heavy casualties during the clashes.”

Reporters for Pajhwok news agency and Salam Watandar Radio were briefly taken captive by the Taliban on the battlefield but none were injured, according to the reporters.

“We had a 10-meter distance from the security forces,” said Storai Karimi, a Pajhwok reporter, “we were surrounded by the Taliban.”

Shekib Shams, reporter of Salam Watandar also said: “It was terrible because a few bullets hit our car. When I stopped the car, I saw that four Taliban had surrounded us and told us to take the car into the road.”

The reporters said that they were freed after an hour.

Security sources said the Taliban advanced this morning in Herat city, adding that “the Taliban launched large attacks on several villages in the west of Herat city and clashes are still ongoing.”

“There are clashes in Pul-e-Malan on the battlefield and the Taliban were prevented from advancing. Sometimes troops move forward and then retreat but it does not mean that the lines were broken,” said Abdul Saboor Qane, provincial governor.

Colonel Mohammad Nasir Alizai, commander of a commando unit from Zafar 207 Military Corps, said: “The Taliban’s war is a psychological war, and it wants to cause panic among the people. I urge the people of Herat not to lose their spirit.”

This comes a day after Mohammad Ismail Khan, former mujahedeen leader and a senior member of Jamiat-e-Islami who is leading the fight against the Taliban in Herat along with scores of public resistance forces, criticized the Ministry of Defense for delays in sending reinforcements to Herat.

Clashes in the city of Herat began their fourth day on Sunday. Clashes are underway in the southern part of Herat near Malan Bridge, which was taken over by the Taliban on Saturday.

Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said hundreds of reinforcements arrived in the city on Sunday morning.

Hundreds of families have been displaced from their homes in the southern parts of Herat city due to the ongoing clashes, local officials said.

Taliban attacks on the city of Herat were criticized on Saturday by some lawmakers and analysts who say they are a clear violation of the group’s commitments to the Doha agreement.

The Taliban said that the group has made no commitment to not attack major cities.

Fighting has surged across the country in the months since early May, when US-led foreign forces began a final withdrawal from Afghanistan that is now almost complete.

After seizing large tracts of rural territory and capturing key border crossings, the Taliban have started to besiege provincial capitals.

Flights out of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city and was also the former bastion of the insurgents, were halted after rockets struck the airport before dawn.

Airport chief Massoud Pashtun said two rockets had hit the runway and repairs were underway with planes likely to resume service later on Sunday.

The facility is vital to maintaining the logistical and air support needed to keep the Taliban from overrunning the city, while also providing aerial cover for large tracts of southern Afghanistan.

Taliban train in Afghanistan
The Taliban have turned their attention to provincial capitals.(Reuters: Stringer, file photo)

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

“Fighting is going on inside the city and we have asked for special forces to be deployed in the city,” Ataullah Afghan, head of Helmand provincial council, told AFP.

Afghan security forces have increasingly relied on air strikes to push the militants back from cities even as they run the risk of hitting civilians in heavily populated areas.

“The city is in the worst condition. I do not know what will happen,” said Halim Karimi, a resident of Lashkar Gah, a city of 200,000 residents.

“Neither the Taliban will have mercy on us, nor will the government stop bombing.”

Further west in the city of Herat, fighting continued on the city’s outskirts overnight with air strikes targeting Taliban positions.Taliban taking back swathes of AfghanistanAs foreign forces slowly leave Afghanistan ahead of the official September 11 withdrawal date, Taliban insurgents are gaining ground across the country.

Herat provincial governor’s spokesman Jailani Farhad said that around 100 militant fighters had been killed in the attacks.

Both the Taliban and government forces tend to exaggerate their claims of casualties inflicted on each other’s forces and true counts are difficult to independently verify.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Defence said that hundreds of commandos had been sent to Herat to help beat back the insurgent assault.

“These forces will increase offensive operations and suppress the Taliban in Herat,” the ministry tweeted.

Pressure mounts on the Afghan military

For months, the Taliban’s rapid territorial gains during the final stages of the US military withdrawal have largely been in sparsely populated rural areas.

But in recent weeks they have brought increasing pressure on provincial capitals and seized key border crossings.

Afghan security forces in Kabul
Authorities in the southern city of Lashkar Gah called for more troops to rein in assualts.(AFP: Noorullah Shirzada)

The capture of any major urban centre would take their current offensive to another level and fuel concerns that the army is incapable of resisting the Taliban’s battlefield advances.

The government has repeatedly dismissed the militants’ steady gains over the summer as lacking strategic value.

The Taliban have previously seized some cities but have managed to retain them only briefly: US officials say, as Taliban forces continue to take new territory.

The insurgents overran Kunduz twice in 2015 and 2016, and briefly held control of Ghazni city after setting ablaze key government buildings and destroying telecommunication towers.

In recent weeks the Afghan government’s air force, backed by the US military, has provided Kabul with its biggest battlefield advantage over the Taliban and has so far largely kept the insurgents from overrunning urban areas.

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

“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,” top US envoy in Kabul Ross Wilson told reporters this week.

Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 48 seconds
Taliban taking back control of Afghan province

AFP

#AceNewsDesk report ……Published: Aug.02: 2021:

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#afghanistan, #herat, #kabul, #kandahar, #lashkar-gah