Kandahar (Afghanistan) (AFP)
Afghan forces clashed with Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak on Friday after launching an operation to retake the main border post with Pakistan, as regional capitals stepped up efforts to get warring parties to speak.
Dozens of injured Taliban fighters were being treated in a Pakistani hospital near the border after heavy nightly fighting, AFP correspondents reported.
“We suffered one death and dozens of our fighters were wounded,” Mullah Muhammad Hassan, who introduced himself as a Taliban insurgent near Chaman in Pakistan, about five kilometers from the border, told AFP. border.
Border fight comes as a war of words escalated between the government in Kabul and Islamabad after the Afghan vice president accused the Pakistani military of providing “close air support to the Taliban in some areas” .
Pakistan strongly denied this claim, with a foreign ministry statement saying the country “has taken the necessary steps on its territory to protect our own troops and our people.”
“We recognize the right of the Afghan government to take action on its sovereign territory,” he added.
Residents of Spin Boldak, which fell to the Taliban on Wednesday, said the Taliban and the military were fighting in the main bazaar in the border town.
# photo1 ″ There is heavy fighting, ”Mohammad Zahir said.
The border post offers direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where the main Taliban leaders have been based for decades, as well as an unknown number of reserve fighters who regularly enter Afghanistan to bolster their ranks.
As the fighting continued, Pakistan announced Thursday that it would hold a special conference on Afghanistan in Islamabad this weekend, although Taliban officials were not invited.
There were also signs that the official Doha talks – which have been stalled for months – could come to life.
An aide to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told local media his government had called for the Islamabad conference to be postponed, with negotiators already traveling to Qatar.
The Taliban used the final stages of the foreign troop withdrawal to launch a series of lightning attacks across the country, seizing a series of districts and border posts, and encircling provincial capitals.
Foreign troops have been in Afghanistan for nearly two decades after the US-led invasion following the September 11 attacks.
They have largely appeared out of sight in recent months, but fears are growing that government forces will be overwhelmed without the vital air support they provide.
The speed and scale of the Taliban attack surprised many, with analysts saying it appeared to be aimed at forcing the government to seek peace on insurgent terms or suffer complete military defeat.
An Afghan official said on Thursday that a local ceasefire with Taliban leaders had been negotiated for Qala-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis province which saw heavy street fighting last week.
“The ceasefire was negotiated by the elders of the tribes,” Badghis governor Hesamuddin Shams told AFP.
© 2021 AFP