NATO special forces have reached Kunduz to bolster Afghan troops after the Taliban seized the strategic northern city, the military coalition said Wednesday. “Coalition special forces are on the ground in Kunduz advising their Afghan counterparts,” a NATO spokesman said.
The forces are comprised of US, British and German troops, a Western military source told AFP on condition of anonymity, without specifying the number.
NATO said US forces had also carried out three airstrikes in total since Tuesday — two on the outskirts of Kunduz and one near the city’s airport, which is currently under attack by Taliban insurgents. The Taliban that took over the city managed to block Afghan security forces’ reinforcements attempting to reach the city.
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) September 30, 2015
Hundreds of lightly armed Taliban riding on motorbikes seized Kunduz city, capital of Kunduz Province, on September 28. Their capture marked the fall of the first major Afghan city to the insurgents in 14 years.
The fall of the provincial capital has dealt a major blow to Afghanistan’s NATO-trained security forces and highlighted the insurgency’s potential to expand beyond its rural strongholds. Despite the counter-strike Kunduz remained largely under Taliban control — the first major urban centre in their grip in 14 years.
The Taliban’s incursion into Kunduz, barely nine months after the NATO combat mission concluded, raises troubling questions over the capacity of Afghan forces as they battle militants largely on their own. The Taliban stepped up attacks during a summer offensive launched in late April against the Western-backed government in Kabul. Kunduz province, which borders Tajikistan and is a major transport hub for the north of the country, could offer the Taliban a critical new base of operations beyond their traditional southern strongholds.
Taliban gradually increased their presence in Kunduz in recent years and came close to overrunning the city of 300,000 in April. Most Central Asian fighters were pushed into Afghanistan last year by a major Pakistani offensive against their hideouts in North Waziristan, close to the country’s western border with Afghanistan.
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