Around 5,000 Afghan troops massed at Kunduz airport early on Wednesday after fighting there raged late into the night, an Afghan security official said, and Taliban fighters were driven back with the help of a second USA air strike.
But by nightfall Afghan forces had mostly given up their gains and retreated to two locations-the airport and a strategic hill on the other side of the city, according to Afghan officials, residents and the Taliban. The city is the first to fall to the Taliban since the US-led attack ousted the regime of Mullah Omar in October-November 2001.
At least 30 people died and over 200 others were injured in attacks launched by Taliban militants on Kunduz city of Afghanistan, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said on Wednesday.
The American troops, wearing night-vision goggles, left the airport and killed the assailants before returning, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media about the fighting.
“The reports of extrajudicial executions, including of healthcare workers, abductions, denial of medical care and restrictions on movement out of the city are particularly disturbing”, said Nicholas Haysom, the special representative of the UN Secretary General.
“There are a lot of Taliban vehicles and fighters on the streets of Kunduz, but they have not stopped us.”, he said by phone while journeying to neighboring Takhar province.
Taliban spokesman Mujahid rejected as government propaganda that Taliban fighters have indulged in looting banks, shops, government and non-government offices.
The effort to retake the strategically important city began Tuesday, but it is being hindered by a shortage of ground troops, said Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, a spokesman for the police chief of Kunduz province.
“There will be insurgents over time that can continue to mass… but the Afghan defense forces are able to come back in and be able to retake those areas”, Semonite told The Associated Press.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in December, withdrawing most of its troops, apart from a 13,000-strong residual force used for training and counter-terrorism operations.
Afghanistan’s spy agency says the strikes killed the Taliban leader in the province and his deputy, but the Taliban has denied this. Kunduz’s fall “is a significant blow to the ability of the Afghan National Security Forces to retain control throughout the country”, said the independent Institute for the Study of War, based in Washington, D.C.
“The soldiers made a deal to leave half of their weapons and ammunition to the Taliban in exchange for their lives”, said another member of the provincial council, Aminullah Ayuddin.
The United States and its allies have also committed to providing Afghanistan’s military financial support into the future. “We are confident they will defeat the Taliban and restore the city to Afghan control”.
Restraint Mr Ghani announced in a televised address that more reinforcements were on their way to regain the city, which he said had fallen partly because government troops had shown restraint to avoid civilian casualties.
“We could not seize the airport but captured a few of its surroundings”, he said.