Sunday, October 16, 2016

Taliban attack on Afghan city of Kunduz creates humanitarian disaster

On Monday Afghan forces slipped past defenses of the northern Afghan city of Kunduz and there have been street-to-street gun battles every since.

Although government forces, backed by US special forces have announced repeatedly that they control the city, residents report that fighting is still ongoing in several areas and many are leaving the city. The fighting is leading to a humanitarian situation that is rapidly getting worse as people have limited access to water, food and medical care.
The UN reports that as many as 10,000 residents have fled their homes because of the fighting and those who remain are facing threats from the fighting. Dominic Parker, of the UN said: "Many families were unable to bring their possessions with them and are in a precarious position. We have had reports that some families have been forced to sleep out in the open and many have few food supplies." Included among those who have fled are almost two-thirds of the staff at the city's main public hospital after it was struck by rockets and small arms fire. The hospital is the main source of medical care in Kunduz after a US airstrike struck and destroyed a center run by Medecins Sans Frontiers last year. A doctor at the hospital Marzia Salaam said that the 200 bed hospital has been swamped by at least 210 patients many civilians including women and children who have been wounded in the fighting. She said: "Many of the wounded had to be carried to clinics in surrounding districts and private clinics in the city. If the situation remains the same, we may be forced to halt our services."
The US military command in Kabul claimed Afghan forces were defeating Taliban attempts to take the city and reinforcements were on the way to clear out isolated pockets of Tablian resistance. In contrast, Ismail Kawasi a spokesperson for the Public Health Ministry claimed there was fighting in every street and the situation was critical. He said there were additional medical supplies in neighboring provinces but they could not be flown in until fighting subsided. However, Abdul Hamid, the Kunduz health director said: “Today is calmer than yesterday. Some sporadic gunshots can still be heard.”
The attack happened just as world powers met in Brussels for a donor conference on Afghanistan. Fifteen billion was raised to help fund the country over the next four years. The EU said it would support a peace process that has been stalled.
India's deputy foreign minister MJ Akbar said: "The war for the future is being fought in Asia. We must stand our ground in Afghanistan. India does not believe in an exit option." At the conference there was also a deal to deport failed Afghan asylum seekers back to Afghanistan, a move that will compound the problem of internally displaced people in Afghanistan which already number a million.

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