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Afghan Troops Smash Taliban in Key Northern District, Push Militants Back From Uzbek, Tajik Borders

© Photo : Twitter / @SpecialOpsCorpsAfghan Army commandos rest after liberating a key northern district from the Taliban, July 25, 2021.
Afghan Army commandos rest after liberating a key northern district from the Taliban, July 25, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.07.2021
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Almost all of Afghanistan’s neighbours have been forced to beef up security and prepare for a wave of instability, refugees and possibly even terrorist infiltration efforts amid the Taliban’s ongoing onslaught against the Kabul government in the wake of the ongoing US and NATO retreat from the country after 19+ years of occupation.
Afghan security forces supported by local residents have kicked the Taliban* out of Kaldar district – a strategic area of the northern border region of Balkh, which borders on Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, local media reported on Tuesday.
The district, which runs along the Amu River, was said to have fallen to the Taliban a month ago, and contains the town of Hairatan, a strategic border settlement which serves as a key route for back-and-forth trade between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
The operation to liberate Kaldar took place Monday morning, with security forces working with locals to push the Islamist group out of the area. About 20 militants were said to have been killed and scores more wounded in the operation.
The return of the district to government control comes amid ongoing clashes near provincial centers in Faryab and Takhar provinces, which are also situated in the country’s north, and in Ghazni in the country’s south.
Areas of Faryab, including Maimana city, saw fierce fighting over the weekend, with the Taliban have used mortars and rocket artillery to attack government targets. 16 people, including three civilians, were reportedly killed in the attacks on Maimana.
“We had clashes in 25 provinces in which the Afghan forces made progress,” Afghan National Security Forces spokesman Ajmal Omar Shinwari said in a statement to reporters. The general said some 1,500 Taliban fighters had been killed and over 800 wounded in Afghan government offensives this week. The Taliban has dismissed these estimates.
Balkh Governor Adil Shah Adil praised Afghan security forces for making “good progress,” and said the government would “make efforts to protect civilians.”
In the face of Taliban onslaughts across much of the country, the Afghan Army has enjoyed success with the deployment of highly mobile special forces units to take and hold key strategic areas. Compared to regular army formations, these units are better armed and equipped and less likely to defect or disband in the face of Taliban assaults. The downside is their relatively small number, with roughly 21,000 commandos operating under Afghan National Army Special Operations Command, while the armed forces overall number about 186,000 troops.
ANA Special Operations Command Tweet reads: “Kaldar district of Balkh province was liberated from the Taliban terrorists. As a result, the district has been cleared of Taliban terrorists.”
Earlier Tuesday, the Taliban claimed to have shot down and Afghan military helicopter in the Nade-e-Ali district of Helmand province, and to have occupied the district's center, capturing the local police chief, and seizing stocks of weapons. Military sources told local media that the helicopter made an emergency hard landing following an anti-Taliban operations, with the chopper damaged beyond repair but its passengers safely evacuated.
On Monday, the United Nations’ Assistance Mission in Afghanistan expressed fears that an “unprecedented” number of civilians may perish as the conflict between the Kabul government and the Taliban escalates, and reported that civilian deaths and injuries in the first half of 2021 have already reached “record levels.” Some 1,649 civilians are said to have been killed and 3,254 more injured during this period. Crossfire, improvised explosive devices, targeted killings by the Taliban and airstrikes were said to have caused the majority of the casualties. The UN implored both sides to “take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians,” to “stop the Afghan against Afghan fighting” and intensify negotiations.
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US and coalition forces began the Afghan pullout in May, after the deadline set by the Trump administration in US-Taliban peace talks in February 2020 had already expired. President Joe Biden promised to have all US troops out of the country by September and the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks – which served as the pretext for the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Last month, the Pentagon said troops would be out by the end of August.
Amid the escalating violence which has accompanied their withdrawal, the Pentagon has threatened to ramp up airstrikes against the Taliban if it continued its attacks against government forces.
Last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley reported that the Afghan government continues to maintain control of all 34 of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals, but that about half of the nation’s district centers are now under Taliban occupation.
The Taliban has claimed to have seized up to 85 percent of Afghanistan’s territory and up to 90 percent of border areas. Kabul has disputed these claims as “baseless propaganda” and emphasized that the government has undisputed possession of all “main cities and highways.”
Earlier this Month, President Biden stressed at a press conference that a Taliban victory in Afghanistan was “not inevitable,” and that the US and its allies had trained and equipped 300,000 troops and provided the country with an air force against a Taliban force which he estimated to number about 75,000 fighters.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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