Kabul: The Taliban has attacked several provinces in northern Afghanistan, overrunning large parts of one district even as US diplomats expressed optimism that a peace process stalled over the release of prisoners was getting back on track.
Insurgents launched major assaults in three northern provinces – in Kunduz, whose capital was overrun by the Taliban repeatedly in recent years, as well as in Faryab and Badakhshan. Some of the worst fighting occurred in Badakhshan province, where insurgents took control of much of the district of Yamgan and inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan forces in another district, Jurm.
An Afghan boy looks out from a broken window after a bomb explosion in Kabul in February.Credit:AP
Amanullah Iman, who leads the executive branch of the Yamgan district office, said hundreds of Taliban fighters attacked soon after dawn on Saturday and captured the district center after three hours of fighting. "There were five outposts in Yamgan district center, and the Taliban captured all of them," Iman said. "The security forces escaped to a military base in another part of this district."
The fighting rages despite an appeal for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds to slow the spread of the coronavirus across the country.
Though the Taliban say they have begun a public health campaign to combat the virus, they also have launched more than 300 attacks in the past week in the roughly dozen Afghan provinces that have reported positive cases.
"During the day, we fight coronavirus. At night, our brothers, the Taliban. In the morning, we hold meetings on coronavirus. In the afternoon, on security," said Naqibullah Faiq, who is a doctor and the governor of Faryab province, where the Taliban have tried to overrun the Almar district in days of fighting.
"This might be the dumbest war in the world's history — that the world is going to quarantine, and we are busy fighting each other," he said.
The violence continues even as US diplomats and Afghan officials reported progress on plans to release prisoners and on preparations for direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Both steps are laid out in a deal signed between the Taliban and the U.S. last month, but those steps were delayed by disagreements and complicated because of travel restrictions around the pandemic. And both appear to be bargained over down to the wire.
New York Times
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