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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Taliban take another area in Northern Afghanistan

(May 8)After announcing their spring offensive just a week ago, the Taliban have captured a second area in Afghanistan, a district in the northern Kunduz province

Mahfoozullah Akbari, a spokesman for the police in Kunduz, claimed that Taliban fighters attacked the district of Qala-e Zal "from several directions" on Friday. They took full control of the district by mid-morning on Saturday. He said there had been fierce resistance from security forces but they were driven back before reinforcements arrived. The Taliban said on their website that they had killed a number of soldiers, police and pro-government militia members and seized a huge cache of weapons and ammunition.
The Afghan forces beset by killings, desertions and declining morale is already stretched to its limits as the Taliban are fighting in many different areas not just the traditional southern strongholds. As shown on the appended video border police were brought to help defend a provincial capital. The casualties are up 35 percent in 2016 with 6,800 soldiers and police killed according to a US source. In March, Taliban fighters dressed in Afghan army uniforms attacked a government military base near Mazar-i-Sharif city killing at least 135 troops at the base. Al Jazeera quotes Afghan officials as saying that there were 140 killed plus 160 wounded in the attack.
The Taliban were driven from power over 16 years ago and they have been fighting ever since with Afghan forces and their allies led by the US. In 2014, the US officially ended their combat campaign but kept a number of troops in the country along with some of its allies to help train the Afghan security forces. However, the US also has been involved in continuous anti-terror campaigns and also has used drone and aerial attacks both in counter-terror activity and in support for Afghan-led fights against the Taliban. Even now almost half of Afghanistan is contested by or under control of the Taliban. The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction(SIGAR) claims the Afghan government only controls or influences 57 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts.
The Islamic State (IS) is also active in Afghanistan. The US even dropped the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) on a group of tunnels and caves in an IS stronghold in the mountains near the Pakistan border. However, afterwards there were still clashes with the IS fighters in the area. Although Afghan officials reported up to almost one hundred casualties there has been no confirmation and access to the site is restricted. The US has refused to confirm casualty numbers or released further information itself. The IS claim there were no casualties!The series of caves and tunnels was apparently originally built with the help of the CIA to help jihadists fight against the Soviet-backed Afghan regime.
At the end of March there were approximately 8,400 US troops left in Afghanistan along with another 5,000 from other NATO countries. General John NIcholson, top US general in Afghanistan has been requesting up to 5,000 more US troops to break what he calls the stalemate between Afghan forces and the IS.


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