KABUL (Dispatches) – About 5,000 Afghan families have fled their homes in Kunduz after days of fighting between Taliban fighters and government forces, officials say, as the deadline looms for U.S.-led troops to withdraw.
Heavy fighting has also been reported in the provinces of Kandahar and Baghlan, where the Afghan forces claimed to have retaken areas from Taliban control but the armed group still held on to parts of Pul-e-Khumri area in central Baghlan, according to local media.
The Taliban has taken control of dozens of districts.
Amid intensified operations by the militant group to overtake more territory in Afghanistan, at least 24 members of the Taliban militant group were killed in clashes with army troops in Afghanistan’s northern province of Kunduz, sources say.
Kunduz has been the scene of sporadic clashes between the two sides in recent days as Taliban militants have tried to seize the city.
Since early May, the Taliban militant group has been engaged in major offensives against Afghan government forces and civilians across the country. The group claims to have seized at least 87 of the country’s 421 districts.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and other NATO troops prepare to leave Afghanistan after two decades of war and occupation.
Five years of ruling Afghanistan by the Taliban came to an end following the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2001.
Talks have been held between the Afghan government and the Taliban on and off since the United States reached its own deal with the militants. It is unclear if any negotiations are presently underway.
Pakistan’s foreign minister said Sunday that violence and lawlessness could reign in Afghanistan, and that Pakistan would shut its border to the country if the Taliban takes control of it.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Pakistan has already taken in 3.5 million Afghan refugees over the years, but would not accept any more. He was speaking in a weekly media briefing held in the central city of Multan.
“We can’t take more, we will have to shut our border, we have to safeguard our national interest,” he said, adding that Pakistan will continue its diplomatic efforts for peace in the country, and welcome its democratically elected leadership.