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Buoyed with US air strikes, Afghan security forces push back Taliban

US Strikes on Kata'ib Hizballah facilities on Dec. 29, 2019. (Tech. Sgt. Joseph Park/U.S. Air Forces Central Command)

Bouyed by support from the international community and air strikes by the United States, the Afghanistan National Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) have begun the pushback against the Taliban with latest reports from ground indicating fierce fighting in 20 provinces including Ghazni, Takhar, Kandahar, Helmand and Baghlan. The Taliban with Pakistan fighters within ranks have suffered heavy casualties in these attacks.

The action against the Sunni Pashtun insurgent group also includes keeping the important highways of the country safe. The Afghanistan government has stepped up the security of Maymana-Aqina, Hairatan — Kabul-Torkham, Spin Boldak-Kandahar city-Lashkarga and Islam Qala-Herat highways to ensure free movement of security forces.

The ANDSF cleared several villages along the highway of insurgents and defused at least nine improvised explosive devices or IEDs according to inetlligence reports from Afghanistan. They also foiled an attack on India-built and funded Salma Dam in Herat, in which a number of Taliban fighters were killed and five others injured.

The security cover of Kabul and other important cities, including Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kandahar city and Herat, has also been increased.

The local leaders are encouraging the people to raise arms against the Taliban. Daikundi-based Shia cleric, Ayatullah Wahizada, has even issued a fatwa to motivate people to do so.

The US forces, till the time they are in Afghanistan, are helping the ANDSF eliminate Taliban terrorists. A number of air strikes — both using manned and unmanned strike platforms — has killed key Taliban leaders, the highest (81) in Shiberghan. The US forces have conducted air strikes in Kandahar and Helmand.

The Taliban have condemned the US air strikes with their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warning of “consequences”.

The Afghan security forces has also killed Pakistani military officials, which points to the fact that Pakistan is actively supporting the Taliban in their endeavours. According to Afghan Army 209 Corps, a Pakistan army officer named Javed was killed by intelligence agency officers. They said that Javed was leading the Taliban in Logar, Paktia, and Paktika provinces.

A protest march were held in Pakistan’s South Waziristan (in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) on Tuesday to express solidarity with Afghan citizens and oppose the undeclared war against Afghanistan from Pakistani side in which several innocent people have been killed. The march was organised by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) whose chief Manzoor Pashteen said that the war in Afghanistan has kept the entire region in poverty and stagnation.

Meanwhile, Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) General Kenneth F McKenzie recently met Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani to discuss the security situation. After the meeting, he said that the US was prepared to continue air strikes against the terrorists. He termed the battle for Kandahar a “tough fight”, and emphasized that while the city had not fallen yet, it’s control was ‘critical’ for both sides.

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(c) 2021 the Hindustan Times

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