KABUL (Dispatches) – Hundreds of tribal elders and locals in Afghanistan have taken up arms, forming various groups in different provinces to fight alongside security forces on the frontlines against the Taliban.
This is the first time that the public has shown a willingness to fight against the Taliban in such large numbers since the militant group increased its attacks.
Afghanistan’s newly-appointed Acting Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi has already called on people to stand with security forces and pledged that the government will provide facilities and equipment.
The militants have launched a sweeping offensive across large swathes of northern Afghanistan in recent days, swallowing up a dizzying number of rural districts.
Local officials said Wednesday the Taliban remain in control of Afghanistan’s main crossing with Tajikistan, a day after the militants seized a vital inland transit hub and sent government forces fleeing into the neighboring country.
Tuesday’s capture of the border hub of Shir Khan Bandar -- along the key trade route to Central Asia -- came as the Taliban encircled nearby Kunduz city, sparking fears the provincial capital was on the verge of falling.
“We have reports from our local staff that the Taliban have confiscated all the goods and commodities in the port, and they have destroyed the customs office,” said Massoud Wahdat, a spokesman for the Kunduz chamber of commerce and industries.
A Taliban spokesperson denied that the group’s forces had ransacked the facilities.
“We are working to get the port operational again,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiuhullah Mujahid.
Afghan government forces have vowed to launch a massive offensive to retake lost territory.
However, Kunduz provincial council member Amruddin Wali said it appeared there were no plans at the moment for a government counteroffensive at the border
Taliban also fired a rocket at a hospital in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar, as heavy fighting continues between government forces and militants.
Kunar health official Aziz Safai said the rocket attack, which took place on Wednesday, sparked a blaze that resulted in extensive damage and the loss of crucial supplies.
Furthermore, a landmine blast in Afghanistan’s restive southern Kandahar province killed at least five civilians and injured 18 others, officials confirmed on Wednesday.
The provincial governor’s spokesman Jamal Nasir told Anadolu Agency that the incident took place late last night in the restive Maiwand district that recently fell to the Taliban.
“A passenger bus carrying passengers on the main Kandahar-Herat highway hit the landmine planted by the Taliban, killing five people and injuring 18 others,” he said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
The UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that the situation on the ground in the country is dire.
“I cannot overstate to the council my concern regarding the present situation in Afghanistan. All of the major trends -- politics, security, the peace process, the economy, the humanitarian emergency, and COVID -- all of these trends are negative or stagnant,” Deborah Lyons, the top UN envoy for Afghanistan, told the Security Council in a briefing.
“If there is a sense of hope, it indeed resides in a fact that previous worse-case predictions did not materialize. But the relentless spirit of the Afghans and their incredible resilience is being severely tested and the possible slide toward dire scenarios is undeniable,” she said.