Kunduz struggles as battles rage on, Taliban take more districts

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Kunduz/Kabul (dpa) – Kunduz residents complained they were struggling to find daily necessities on Friday as efforts by security forces to retake the northern Afghan city ran into a second day.

Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini said the Afghan government retook all the government buildings and police posts on Thursday, and spoke only of “house-to-house searches” for Taliban fighters in hiding.

“The city centre is under our control, but there are still some firefights going on in the outskirts of the city,” he said.

But residents dispute the claim, saying that while the government buildings were under the control of Afghan forces, the battle for the streets and neighbourhoods was ongoing.

“The Taliban still control parts of the city and they are battling Afghan forces to retake control of the ground they have lost,” said Sayed Asadullah Sadat, an elected member of the Kunduz provincial council.

He said residents are concerned about their safety and spoke of a lack of electricity and running water as well as dwindling food supplies.

“At least half of the city is controlled by the fighters,” a Kunduz resident, who identified himself as Baryalai, said, adding that battles were taking place before their very doors.

“We cannot get out for fear of being caught in the crossfire. Our children are starving and families who are able to flee have little to nothing financially to continue their trip,” the resident said.

Some 100 US and coalition soldiers have been deployed to Kunduz in advisory and assistance roles, but they are fighting alongside government troops on the ground, while the US military has carried out eight airstrikes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) meanwhile says hospitals in Kunduz are short-staffed and lack medical supplies.

“The ICRC’s priority at the moment is to ensure the safety of civilians and the delivery of essential medical material to the hospitals,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the international Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan.

The Red Cross says it has emergency medical supplies ready to be flown in from Kabul as soon as security at Kunduz airport improves.

Nicolas Elias Metri, a Red Cross official in Kabul, said all the group’s non-medical staff were evacuated to another province but its medical personnel are still in Kunduz providing emergency health services.

Kunduz city, with a population of 300,000 people, was overrun by hundreds of Taliban militants on Monday in a surprise assault, pushing government forces back to the local airport.

At least four of the six districts of Kunduz province are under Taliban control. The government forces have not even tried to take back two of these districts – Chardhara and Dasth-e-Archi, local officials said.

In neighbouring provinces at least six districts fell to the Taliban on Thursday and Friday, officials said.

In Takhar province, east of Kunduz, a local official said the Taliban seized Khwaja Ghar, Yangi Qala and Ishkamish districts. Afghan forces have launched operations to take them back, a Kabul-based government official said on condition of anonymity.

In Baghlan province, west of Kunduz, a non-key district, Tala Wa Barfak, fell to the Taliban on Thursday.

Naveed Frotan, spokesman for the provincial governor of Badakhshan in the north-east, confirmed that both Baharak and Warduj districts had fallen to the Taliban.

“Baharak is a key district that connects six others to the capital,” Badakshan council member Maulavi Hamidullah Muslim told dpa. “I fear, due to the district’s fall, other districts that have been cut off from the capital may fall soon as well.”

Speaking of low fighting morale among local troops after the fall of Kunduz, Hamidullah Muslim said “the Afghan security forces in Baharak did not put up a fight. They just left the district.”

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