Kabul (dpa) – Schekib Salarsai does not need many words to describe what it looks like in his hometown Kunduz. “Total chaos,” Salarski, one of 370,000 people living in the large city in northern Afghanistan, said on the phone.
“The government people have fled. The Taliban have released prisoners from prison. We have no water and no electricity. The streets are closed. No one can take the injured to the hospitals.” The city is on fire in several parts.
Key government institutions acquired
After two days of fierce fighting, the militant Islamist Taliban captured the provincial capital on Sunday – one of their most significant successes since international forces withdrew. The Islamists have taken over the main government institutions in the city, three provincial councilors from the German news agency confirm. In Germany too, the name Kunduz means something to many – the German armed forces operated a field camp nearby for years.
Provincial councilor Amruddin Wali says security forces and government officials have now withdrawn to this military base near the airport, which now houses the 217th Afghan Army Corps. The government only has an area around the airport and this base. Last year, about 100 German soldiers were stationed in “Kamp Pamir” to train Afghan security forces. On Sunday afternoon (local time), fighting continued in the area around the airfield.
US also carries out air strikes
The loss of Kunduz weighs heavily on the Afghan government. The city is an important trade center near the border with neighboring Tajikistan. It was briefly captured by the Taliban in 2015 and 2016. Both times, the Islamists were driven back with US airstrikes. The US is currently carrying out air strikes – still. The American troops have practically withdrawn. The planes fly outside Afghanistan. “That means there are no longer enough funds to defend every attacked city in the country,” the New York Times wrote.
The US military mission officially ends in less than three weeks. So far, the US has not made any concessions to continue supporting Afghan security forces against the Taliban. It was unclear on Sunday whether government forces are attempting a major operation to recapture Kunduz. The city is also of great importance to the German armed forces, which withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of June after almost 20 years. Here, German soldiers fought the Taliban for hours. Nowhere were more Germans killed than in Kunduz and the neighboring province of Baghlan.
When the Bundeswehr first withdrew from Kunduz in 2013, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) said: “For us, Kunduz is where the Bundeswehr first fought and had to learn to fight. That was a turning point – not only for the Bundeswehr, but also for German society.” Kunduz is now the fourth provincial capital to be captured by the Islamists within three days.
Other provincial capitals such as
On Friday, Saranj fell in Nimrus on the Iranian border – practically without a fight. Schiberghan followed on Saturday in Jausdschan in the north, the seat of power of former warlord and ex-vice president Abdul Raschid Dostum. Almost simultaneously with Kunduz, the Islamists took Sar-i Pul, the capital of the province of the same name in the north.
The loss of such smaller provincial capitals is “a huge loss of prestige for the government, but it has yet to be overcome,” said Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig of the Kabul think tank Afghanistan Analysts Network. The Kunduz case, on the other hand, “weighs more”. It could open the way to the capital, to Kabul.
One has to wonder, however, whether the Kunduz Taliban wanted or should have marched to Kabul at all. South of the capital, they have long controlled Wardak and Logar counties just outside the suburbs. But you could speculate about the collapse of government forces, which would have barely resisted in the fallen cities, Ruttig says.
Foreign Affairs sees deterioration
Salarsai, the man from Kunduz, says he does not see any security forces at this time. The police had put down their weapons and were walking around in civilian clothes. The neighbors are about to pack their things. You would be scared. There was initially no information about civilian casualties
The US on Saturday condemned the Taliban’s “new violent offensive against Afghan cities”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs now sees an increasing deterioration in the security situation. The situation is developing rapidly, a ministry spokesman said in Berlin on Sunday.
At the same time, the Taliban tried to continue their military triumph. According to local media reports, they have penetrated the center of Talokan, the capital of Tachar province, bordering Kunduz.