Afghan officials are reporting that the fifth largest city in the country has fallen to the Taliban.
Kunduz, in the northeast corner of Afghanistan, succumbed to “a massive and well executed attack” beginning at 3 a.m. on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the country’s unity government.
“Insurgents closed off the only four access points into the city – effectively preventing troops from entering and civilians from fleeing. Officials said that the militants have also closed the airport road,” Tolo News reported.
“Heavy fighting has been ongoing throughout the day and so far the Taliban has seized the provincial council building, the offices of the local High Peace Council, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) building, UNAMA offices and other key official facilities including private banks. Officials also reported that the Taliban has overrun the local prison and freed all prisoners.”
Afghan officials said late Monday evening that the city will be retaken.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) called the reports “discouraging, but not unexpected.”
“President Obama’s failure to fully resource his strategy for Afghanistan forces our troops and their leaders to focus on meeting next year’s withdrawal deadline, rather than America’s security needs,” Thornberry said. “The fall of Kunduz to the Taliban is not unlike the fall of Iraqi provinces to ISIL — it is a reaffirmation that precipitous withdrawal leaves key allies and territory vulnerable to the very terrorists we’ve fought so long to defeat.”
Gen. John Campbell, who leads coalition forces in Afghanistan, will testify before the committee in October.
“I look forward to his assessment of how American and Afghan security can be enhanced if his forces are allowed to stay beyond the end of 2016,” Thornberry said.
The Taliban issued a statement claiming they have “no intention of transgressing against” Kunduz citizens’ “personal property, carrying out extrajudicial killings, looting or breaching the inviolability of homes rather it seeks to prevent such happenings.”
“The citizens of Kunduz should not worry about safeguarding their lives and properties. Carry out your ordinary livelihoods in absolute security. All traders, workers, staff of hospitals, municipality and governing bodies should continue their daily routines without any fear or intimidation. Mujahideen are their brothers and are committed to securing their lives and property. Mujahideen are not thinking of harassing or deriding anyone but have intentions of respecting and bringing serenity to their lives,” the Taliban said, adding that if the people “regret their former actions and renounce links with the opposition then the gates of forgiveness of the Islamic Emirate are open upon them.”
“The Kabul regime should openly admit its defeat, stop linking the victories of the Mujahideen to outside intelligence agencies and must not avenge their setbacks with blind bombardments and shelling of innocent people,” they added. “They should accept the progress of Mujahideen as a bitter reality and think about their future and the future of the entire country in a cool composed manner.”