Taliban battles its way into key Afghan city

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Afghanistan’s Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said government forces were in a “very sensitive military situation”, adding that “the war is raging” with the Taliban

News Desk

KABUL: The Taliban launched a major assault on a provincial capital in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the first since the US military began its final drawdown of troops from the country.

Fierce fighting erupted in the western city of Qala-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis, with the Taliban seizing police headquarters and offices of the country’s spy agency.

Afghanistan’s Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said government forces were in a “very sensitive military situation”, adding that “the war is raging” with the Taliban.

The onslaught came just hours after Washington announced US forces on the ground had completed more than 90% of their withdrawal from Afghanistan, and as the Kabul government held talks with Taliban representatives in neighbouring Iran.

The Taliban have waged a dizzying campaign across Afghanistan since US and NATO forces announced the final withdrawal from the country in early May, seizing dozens of rural districts and stirring fears that the government is in crisis.

“The enemy has entered the city, all the districts have fallen,” Badghis governor Hessamuddin Shams told reporters in a text message.

Badghis provincial council chief Abdul Aziz Bek confirmed the assault, saying some security officials had surrendered to the Taliban.

“The provincial council officials have fled to an army camp in the city. Fighting continues in the city,” added Badghis provincial council member Zia Gul Habibi.

She said the Taliban had entered the city’s police headquarters and the local office of the country’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security.

In a separate video message sent to reporters, Shams attempted to calm the residents of the city, even as he appeared armed with a rifle with gunfire rattling in the distance.

“My message is please keep your calm. I assure you that we will, all of us, together defend the city,” he said.