Fighting between Afghanistan forces, Taliban intensifies

Three provinces in southern and western Afghanistan are facing “critical” security situations as fighting intensifies between the Taliban and Afghan forces, the Afghan army says.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Kabul, said the fighting has continued overnight in Kandahar and there were fresh clashes in Spin Boldak, at the border with Pakistan.

“The most worrying for the Afghan government is that the fighting continues within the city walls of Kandahar. We understand that there have been air strikes there by the Afghan air force. The Afghan military are saying that at least 35 Taliban fighters were killed overnight. We don’t have a response from the Taliban,” he said.

“The other very worrying figure we have which comes from doctors at Mirwais hospital is that 18 people were injured and three were killed overnight, including women and children. So the civilian casualties continue to mount.”

Fighting in the war-torn South Asian country has escalated as the United States and NATO troops plan to complete their pullout by August 31 after 20 years of war.

The Taliban is now trying to seize provincial capitals, after already taking smaller administrative districts in recent months.

Taliban assassinations of Afghan pilots this month mark another “worrisome development” for the Afghan Air Force as it reels from a surge in fighting, a US government watchdog said in a report.

At least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months, two senior Afghan government officials told Reuters news agency, part of what the Taliban says is a campaign to see US-trained Afghan pilots “targeted and eliminated”.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in its quarterly report to Congress covering the three-month period through June, broadly portrayed an Afghan Air Force (AAF) under growing strain from battling the Taliban amid the US withdrawal – and becoming less ready to fight.

The Upper and Lower houses of the Afghan parliament have released a joint statement after President Ashraf Ghani’s address, expressing their full support for his security plan.

They also declared their “firm” support to the republic, human rights, women’s rights and the freedom of speech.

The lawmakers also said they stand with the Afghan National Security Forces, “who sacrifice their lives for the nation”.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has presented his security plan to the country’s parliament in Kabul, saying the situation in the nation will be under control within “six months”.

He also said that Washington has pledged their full support that plan, adding that the current situation in the country is the result of the “sudden” decision of international troops to withdraw from the country, but that “the protection of the people” is a duty he will carry on.

Ghani also called on both houses parliament to support his security plan and to encourage the people of Afghanistan to do so.

Meanwhile the Taliban have released a statement in response to President Ashraf Ghani’s address to the legislature, saying his “statements were all nonsense”.

“He was trying to control his own bad [mental] state and mistakes,” it said.

“The nation has decided to prosecute the national traitors and bring them to justice. Declarations of war, making accusations and providing false information cannot prolong Ghani’s life. His time is over, God willing.”

Russia will scale up military drills near Afghan border by sending an additional contingent of 800 troops to take part in military exercises at the Afghan border and use two times more hardware there than originally planned, Interfax news agency has reported, citing the defence ministry.

The drills, which are set to take place on August 5-10 and involve Uzbek and Tajik forces, come as the security situation rapidly deteriorates in Afghanistan amid a US troop withdrawal.

Russia said that 1,800 of its soldiers would take part in the drills, instead of 1,000 as initially planned. More than 2,500 troops would be involved in total, it said. Moscow will also use 420 units of military hardware for the drills, two times more than originally planned, it said.


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