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Afghan govt imposes night curfew to stem Taleban advance

Filed on July 24, 2021 | Last updated on July 24, 2021 at 11.08 pm
Newly Afghan Army Special forces attend their graduation ceremony after a three-month training programme at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul. — AP

The Taleban offensive has seen the insurgents capture key border crossings, dozens of districts and encircle several provincial capitals

Afghan authorities on Saturday imposed a night-time curfew across 31 of the country’s 34 provinces to curb surging violence unleashed by a sweeping Taleban offensive in recent months, the interior ministry said.

The widespread Taleban offensive has seen the insurgents capture key border crossings, dozens of districts and encircle several provincial capitals since early May.

“To curb violence and limit the Taleban movements, a night curfew has been imposed in 31 provinces across the country,” except in Kabul, Panjshir and Nangarhar, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The curfew will be effective between 10pm and 4am local time, Ahmad Zia Zia, deputy interior ministry spokesman said in a separate audio statement to reporters.

With the withdrawal of American-led foreign forces all but complete, the resurgent Taleban now controls about half of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts.

After a brief lull in violence during Eid Al Adha, fighting continued again with the authorities claiming to have killed more than 260 Taleban fighters in the past 24 hours across several provinces.

Both the authorities and the Taleban exaggerate their claims which cannot be independently verified.

As the fighting raged in recent weeks, the US military was forced to carry out air strikes “to support” Afghan troops to repel Taleban offensives even as its overall withdrawal continues, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday.

Experts say a lack of regular US air support since May to Afghan forces on the ground is a key factor in government troops losing lot of territory to the Taleban.

Late on Friday, the Taleban warned the US military against carrying out air strikes.

“It is a clear violation of the signed agreement that will have consequences,” the Taleban said in a statement, referring to a landmark deal between Washington and the insurgents last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces.

The Taleban also warned the Afghan government against launching any offensive, saying the group will “strongly defend their territories and not remain in a defensive posture if the enemy insists upon war”.

The Taleban had said earlier this week that its fighters were in a “defensive” posture to mark the Eid Al Adha holidays that ended on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff General Mark Milley said the Taleban appear to have “strategic momentum” on the battlefield.

With the militants putting pressure on around half of the country’s provincial capitals, Afghan troops are in the process of “consolidating their forces” to protect those major urban centres, Milley added.

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