Anti-Taliban Forces Retake Three Northern Afghan Districts

Anti-Taliban Forces Retake Three Northern Afghan Districts

Opposition fighters loyal to Afghanistan’s ousted government on Friday retook three northern districts from the Taliban just days after the Islamist group reestablished its control over most of the country.

Pro-Taliban social media accounts confirmed the military reversal in northern Baghlan province. They said at least 15 Taliban fighters were killed and 15 others injured in what they described as a betrayal of the amnesty announced for members of the former Afghan government.

Abdul Hamid, local commander of what was described as an uprising against the Taliban, said in a video message from Andrab, one of the newly held districts, that his forces were advancing toward another nearby district, vowing to capture all of Baghlan.

The Taliban reportedly have dispatched their forces to Andrab to stage a counteroffensive. 

VOA requested but has not received reaction from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, to what was the first formal armed retaliation since his group took control of the capital, Kabul, on Sunday.

Afghan embassy staff hang a portrait of Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself the “legitimate caretaker president”, on the wall at the embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in this picture released August 18, 2021.

Friday’s attack came just days after Amrullah Saleh, who served as the first vice president to self-exiled President Ashraf Ghani, vowed to organize a strong resistance to the Taliban from his home province of Panjshir.

Saleh has declared himself the caretaker president, citing the Afghan constitution, after Ghani left the country on Sunday and was given asylum by the UAE.  

The former vice president claimed to be operating out of Panjshir with the support of Ahmed Massoud, the son of slain Afghan commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, who successfully defended the province and other strongholds in Afghanistan during the previous Taliban government from 1996 to 2001.

Meanwhile, Taliban leaders have been holding talks with former Afghan rivals in Kabul in their bid to form what they have promised will be an “inclusive Islamic government” to run the strife-torn country.

The United States and the rest of the global community have warned the Taliban that running the country any other way would prolong the Afghan civil war and that they would not recognize such a government.

During their previous regime in Kabul, the Taliban enforced a strict interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic law, under which women could leave home only if escorted by a male relative, and girls were barred from education, among other controversial policies.  

FILE – Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17, 2021.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid vowed earlier this week while speaking at his first press conference in Kabul that the group will respect women’s rights and will allow them to work as well as seek education within Shariah. He said the Taliban want to remain part of the global community and will form an inclusive government where all ethnic groups will have their representation.

However, Afghan rights activists and others report that Taliban fighters are entering their private homes in Kabul and harassing them. Several female media anchors have said the national television has taken them off the air without any explanation.

Former Afghan MP, Elay Ershad, while speaking to VOA from Kabul by phone Friday, said there were “minor issues” facing city residents since the Taliban arrived but the overall situation in terms of security and peace is rapidly improving.

“These are the most calm days of my life in terms of the security situation. There are no explosions, no gunfire and no gunship helicopters in the skies,” Ershad said.

“But still there are groups who are calling themselves Taliban and wear clothes like Taliban. They enter houses, they take people’s weapons, even mobile phones, even houses, like they tried to occupy my house,” she said.

Ershad lamented that schools and universities in Kabul are closed, preventing both girls and boys from resuming their education activities, and banks as well as government offices are closed, which is causing problems for the residents.

FILE – Internally displaced Afghan women, who fled from the northern province due to battle between Taliban and Afghan security forces, gather to receive free food being distributed by Shiite men at Shahr-e-Naw Park in Kabul, August 13, 2021.

“But I am quite happy to have gotten rid of all these thieves and losers who left the country and left behind their constituencies, their people. It is very embarrassing the way they fled the country,” the MP said when asked for her reaction to Ghani and his officials fleeing the country in the face of the Taliban advances.

“I am a woman and stayed back with my people, but all male politicians, they just left,” she said. 

“The security situation in Kabul city is under control. A few girls can walk safely on the street, so I cannot see any problems. It is still not a government, but I will still call [it] a government. It’s quite new and even their leadership is not here yet. But they need to move quickly to address whatever problems I have highlighted,” she added. 

Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Program joined Friday the call for millions of Afghans and others around the world for peace, respect for human rights, and access to development assistance for all in Afghanistan, without any discrimination.  

“We are alarmed that the current trajectory of conflict, uncertainty, drought and COVID-19 pandemic could endanger fragile development gains, including the rights of Afghan women and girls. The international community must stand by, and continue to support, the people of Afghanistan at this time,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.

The Taliban have vowed to improve the Afghan economy, but they still have to address governance issues and reconcile successfully with former rivals to be able to win international legitimacy for their run to receive foreign aid.

Major donors, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have already halted their support for Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest countries.

Taliban rulers, analysts say, will soon face economic challenges like paying salaries to government employees and ensuring running of other projects if international funding sources remain suspended. 
 

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