Afghan forces protect Kunduz from Taliban
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan forces remained in control of Kunduz Saturday afternoon, after the Taliban’s first major offensive of the 2016 fighting season attempted to recapture the northern city that they briefly occupied last year.
Provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh, said the Taliban started fighting in six districts Friday morning, but were quickly pushed back.
“The enemy tried to get close to the center of the city, but our brave security forces fought them and repelled their attacks,” he said, adding that fighting had slowed down considerably after 24 hours.
The AFP, quoting Kunduz governor Asadullah Omarkhil, reported 30 Taliban members were killed and 20 wounded within the city limits.
According to a statement by the Defense Ministry released Saturday, 39 armed “terrorists” were killed and 53 wounded since Friday in operations in the Dasht-e-Archi, Khan Abad and Imam Saheb districts and outskirts of Kunduz city.
The ministry also said seven Afghan soldiers were killed in different operations throughout the country during the same time period, but did not specify where.
Additional forces were sent to the district to secure the area, Jangalbagh said.
“The attacks weren’t that big, but people were still afraid, because we have seen the fall of this city last year, which was very quick and easy for the Taliban,” Haji Maroof Zargar, a businessman in Kunduz city said.
The Afghans recently stepped up operations in the area, in response to intelligence that insurgents were planning to attack Kunduz. Earlier this month, Afghan and U.S. military officials told Stars and Stripes that they were changing tactics to prevent the city from falling again.
Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan said Saturday that American troops were in the area in a train, advise and assist capacity, but that there were currently no plans to increase foreign troop numbers because of the fighting.
The Taliban attacked Afghanistan’s fifth-largest city in late September, catching government forces by surprise. Within hours, the insurgents were in control as security forces retreated to the airport and an army base south of the city. Residents disappeared without putting up a fight.
It took two weeks of fighting and the help of U.S. special operations forces and air power for the Afghans to retake the city. Kunduz was the first major urban center to fall under Taliban control since they were ousted from power in the 2001 U.S. invasion.
The Taliban said in a statement on their website Friday night that they had captured 50 outposts in different Kunduz districts as part of “Operation Omari,” the name given to their new annual offensive, which they officially launched earlier this week.
The group said it would target enemy strongholds with mass assaults, and assassinate “enemy commanders in urban centers” in the coming months.