Afghan leader holds emergency talks with NATO commander
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held emergency talks Monday with NATO’s commander about escalating fighting against insurgents in northern Afghanistan, delaying a planned visit to India.
There was no immediate word on the substance of Ghani’s talks with Gen. John Campbell, who commands the alliance’s Resolute Support training mission. Campbell told reporters before the meeting that the main focus would be the fighting in Kunduz, though other security matters facing Afghan and coalition forces ahead of this year’s spring fighting season were likely on the agenda.
After the talks with Campbell, Ghani departed for his trip to India.
Before Monday’s meeting, the government ordered 2,000 Afghan army reinforcements into Kunduz province, where Afghan army units launched a major offensive against Taliban and other insurgent groups in and around Kunduz city late last week, local news reports said.
Since then, fighting has intensified, spreading from the provincial center into Qala-e-Zal and Imam Sahib districts in northern and western Kunduz.
Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Ayub Salangi and several other officials were traveling to Kunduz on Monday to help coordinate plans to evacuate civilians and push out insurgents from the contested areas, said Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, police spokesman in Kunduz.
Amanudin Qureshi, district governor of Imam Sahib in Kunduz, said roughly 2,000 Afghan Taliban have infiltrated the district, accompanied by a small contingent of foreign fighters. Insurgent forces advanced into the district’s center Monday afternoon, with heavy fighting continuing in the area, Qureshi said.
Qureshi said he and his staff evacuated the government compound in Imam Sahib after their offices came under attack. Without military reinforcements, Qureshi said, the district could be overrun.
The heavy fighting in Kunduz punctuates an intense month of violence in northern Afghanistan, traditionally seen as one of the more secure regions of Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, nearly 250 Taliban and other fighters descended on several army and police positions in Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan, launching a string of coordinated attacks in Jurm and Warduj districts.
More than 30 Afghan soldiers were killed, wounded or went missing in the attacks, Afghan officials said.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.