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An Afghan policeman patrols next to a burning vehicle in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan. — Reuters
An Afghan policeman patrols next to a burning vehicle in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan. — Reuters
An Afghan security vehicle advances towards the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan. — Reuters
An Afghan security vehicle advances towards the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan. — Reuters

KABUL: Afghan forces retook control of the strategic northern city of Kunduz on Thursday after a three-day Taliban occupation that dealt a stinging blow to the country's North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato)-trained military.

The fall of the provincial capital, even temporarily, highlights the stubborn insurgency's potential to expand beyond its rural strongholds in the south of the country.

Afghan forces, hindered by the slow arrival of reinforcements but backed by limited United States (US) air support, struggled to regain control of the city after three days of heavy fighting.

Read: US air strike hits Taliban in captured Afghan city: Nato

But on Thursday troops managed to reach the centre of Kunduz where the streets were littered with Taliban bodies, residents told AFP, adding that fighting was still ongoing in parts of the city.

"Afghan special forces now control Kunduz City, it is retaken and being cleared of terrorists," interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter, adding that the insurgents had suffered heavy casualties.

Deputy Interior Minister Ayoub Salangi said the city had been recaptured after a "special operation" overnight.

Local residents reported deafening overnight bombardments, adding that the Taliban were still resisting Afghan forces in some parts of the city.

But some scenes of jubilation erupted around the city square where local residents, who suffered three days of crippling food shortages, thanked government troops.

"Afghan soldiers took down the white-and-black Taliban flag in the city square and hoisted the government flag," Kunduz resident Abdul Rahman told AFP.

"The Taliban suffered heavy casualties last night. Dead bodies are scattered on the streets, and their supporters are carrying them out of the city wrapped in white cloths."

Security officials said the militants had slowly infiltrated Kunduz during the recent Eid festival, launching a Trojan Horse attack that enabled them to capture it within hours on Monday.

The development coincided with the first anniversary of Ashraf Ghani's national unity government.

Marauding insurgents seized government buildings and freed hundreds of prisoners, raising their flag throughout Kunduz.

The lightning capture of the city sent thousands of panicked residents fleeing as insurgents erected checkpoints across the city and were seen racing vehicles stolen from the police, United Nations (UN) and Red Cross.

Militants exposed civilians to grave danger by hiding in people's houses and conducting door-to-door searches for Afghan soldiers and government staff, rights groups said.

Expanding insurgency

The Taliban's recent gains in Kunduz and neighbouring provinces highlight that a large and strategic patch of northern Afghanistan is imperilled by a rapidly expanding insurgency.

It is also seen as a game-changer for the fractious militant movement that has been dogged by a leadership crisis since the announcement in July of founder Mullah Omar's death.

"The Taliban know that they don't have the power to retain control of a big city like Kunduz," Kabul-based military analyst Atiqullah Amarkhil told AFP.

"But their takeover, however temporary, shows they are a force to reckon with before any future peace negotiations."

Their incursion into Kunduz, barely nine months after the Nato combat mission concluded, raised troubling questions about the capabilities of Afghan forces as they battle the militants largely on their own.

It has renewed questions about Washington's plan to withdraw most US troops from Afghanistan next year.

Even after years of training and equipment purchases — on which Washington spent $65 billion — Afghan forces have been unable to rein in the ascendant insurgency.

The Taliban stepped up attacks during a summer offensive launched in late April against the Western-backed government in Kabul.

After years of costly involvement, most Nato troops pulled back from the front lines by the end of 2014, although a residual force of around 13,000 remains for training and counter-terrorism operations.

Read: 'Northern Afghan city of Kunduz collapses into hands of Taliban'

Comments (46) Closed

AKB Oct 01, 2015 11:48am

Taliban or any other organisation interested in rule over Afghanistan should come through ballot paper and not to grab power on a gun point. The whole world should support democratic institutions in Afghanistan.

Sudhanshu Swami Oct 01, 2015 11:52am

That was really quick.

Kamal Pasha Oct 01, 2015 11:59am

What will happen to Afghanistan, once the foreign troops leave?

kamran khan Oct 01, 2015 12:06pm

I think now everyone knows that Taliban are so strong then USA should apologize for this stupid war and allow them to make Government

This Karzai and Ghani and Abdul Abdullah's corrupt government can't do anything for the prosperity of Afghan Nation

Gulzar Oct 01, 2015 12:24pm

AAAAH, what all I can say, history repeating again and again, suffering s, dead bodies.

Jalbani Baloch Oct 01, 2015 12:37pm

Swift action from Afghan Forces in retaking the fallen city of Kunduz. Talibans will be defeated at both sides of border. The Afghan leadership must act responsibly in the event of any Taliban attack, and instead of hurling accusations on Pakistan, it must prepare for counter-offensive actions with full force to give a humiliating defeat to Talibans. Pakistan has learned a lessons from its past support to Talibans, and will never make any mistake by differentiating Talibans on the basis of Good and Bad Talibans.

Umer Oct 01, 2015 12:43pm

Great job by the Afghan forces in retaking the town. Unlike conventional enemy insurgency is hard to fight. Comapring Afghan troops with the similar powers, they have done great in securing the town that took the entire population hostage. In a similar context, it is taking (will take) the Iraqi Army forever to retake Mosul from the ISIS..

Cyrus Oct 01, 2015 12:51pm

The Taliban are not very good at holding onto territory. They are bandits. They don't have the skills.

Kuldeep Oct 01, 2015 01:10pm

By attacking Kunduz, Taliban has killed any hopes of any further Peace talks. If Ghani still imagines it, then I will call him a very bad statesman. Good job Afghan soldiers. Now learn from your mistakes.

sbk Oct 01, 2015 01:25pm

Will anybody believe Taliban again if they again say, " come on, let us have peace talk"

El Cid Oct 01, 2015 01:37pm

Afghans walked in after the Americans bombed. The Taliban moved out. Smart move since they don't have air defense. They will move back in...

ak Oct 01, 2015 01:38pm

I don't think the west is abandoning Afghanistan anytime soon, especially after this attack. There are unlikely to be any foreign boots on the ground, but airstrikes will always be at hand. And that I think is the best way forward. Train and equip Afghan security forces and intervene with airpower whenever they get into serious trouble.

Having said that, its also imperative to involve the moderate and sensible Pashtun tribesman into the mainstream. There is no way peace can be achieved with one prominent section of society being marginalised. They will continue to show up here or there.

Dr. Abdul Rahman Oct 01, 2015 01:39pm

Totally agree with Kuldeep. No more peace talk with Taliban. It is time to end this mess.

az Oct 01, 2015 01:56pm

International media in contact with the local population are not verifying Afghanistan government version. Though the government troops will eventually retake the city, their hurried statement s are not leaving a good impression.

Pakistani Oct 01, 2015 02:11pm

A relief for Pakistan unstable afghanistan bad news for pakistan we don't want anymore refugees.

Thunder Oct 01, 2015 02:25pm

A blow to the strategic depth! Good job afghan army.

mamuq Oct 01, 2015 02:37pm

bad news

Taher Oct 01, 2015 02:43pm

AFGHANISTAN military now should be ruthless and go after the senior leaders of Taleban. Finish them once for all.

Fahre Afghan Oct 01, 2015 02:44pm

Afghan army need to press the accelerator & punish them into submission. In fact this is the only way forward.

Taher Oct 01, 2015 02:44pm

@Kamal Pasha There are no foreign troops fighting with AFG military...only advisors. Afghanistan will be capable of wiping out Taleban in due course.

Indian Oct 01, 2015 03:10pm

Well done !! Afghan people should realize that they are the only only one who can decide their future but Taliban.

If Afghans want better future then they should also be ready for scarifies.

Zubaida khan Oct 01, 2015 03:11pm

No point in negotiations. It's time to clean up.

Imran Soomro Oct 01, 2015 03:40pm

One of the major setbacks to the Unity Government, especially when they are attending UN General Assembly. It is manifested that Taliban movement is restive and that peace and prosperity of the country and its citizenry is a distant dream without engaging Taliban. Pakistan is firmly committed to kick start that process provided the Afghan government signals willingness. Pakistan is obliged to work with AFghanistan and other regional countries including India as security and prosperity of Pakistan per se is dependent on these countries. Therefore, policies of acrimony and recrimination must be ended soon in order to realize the dream of peace and prosperity. And for that the ball is in Afghan government's court.

Imran Soomro Oct 01, 2015 03:43pm

@AKB Everybody knows what you suggest is more than impossible. Hence, there should a viable and pragmatic solution to the problem in order to avoid further loss of life and property.

Kamal Pasha Oct 01, 2015 04:03pm

@Taher , Read the news first. NATO forces did bombarded Talibans from the air to make road clear for you to enter Kunduz. Without NATO, you can not do anything.

Montage Oct 01, 2015 04:05pm

Grand. UN assembly session started - Kunduz captured by talibans, big head lines when NS & Abdullah Abdullah to address. UN session ended - Kunduz occupation ended. Nice touch to malign Pakistan.

Rahi Milla Oct 01, 2015 04:12pm

Good job. Afghans need to solve their own problems now.

salim khan Oct 01, 2015 04:27pm

And we thought Taliban will tale over Afghanistan? It just proves US is all powerful in Afghanistan and Taliban will never come to power there.

Batul Oct 01, 2015 05:18pm

@Kamal Pasha

They will have carry their own air strike, foreign troops have largely left.

Batul Oct 01, 2015 05:23pm

Americans will maintain a troop of 10,000 till 2025, so Taliban have no chance till 2025.

America will not allow the Taliban to come back.

Karan Thaper Oct 01, 2015 05:24pm

The fall of Kunduz back into the hand of Afghan army is a big setback for Pakistan.

just9 Oct 01, 2015 05:38pm

@Montage what the "French toast" are you guys smoking? This is not a video game.. Get over your conspiracy theories and come back to real life..

Nasser Oct 01, 2015 06:10pm

The Afghan Army, trained by losers, has ended up as losers too. The Taliban have yet again won, because they managed to free hundreds/thousands of their fellow terrorists from the prisons.

History Oct 01, 2015 06:44pm

I would like to remind everyone that the Taliban took Swat for much longer than this.

not-so-strong Oct 01, 2015 06:53pm

Well taliban turned out not so strong at last. They took advantage of an opportunity by sneaking in but quickly defeated. Great job Afghans!

Raza Oct 01, 2015 06:56pm

Thanks to ISAF forces, Northern Aliance is incompetent they can't run this country, ISAF might have to stay forever

Ali Raza Noor Oct 01, 2015 07:32pm

@Karan Thaper big disappointment was for India that they were not invited to peace conference about Afghanistan byUS and other countries.

Dinesh Oct 01, 2015 08:08pm

@El Cid You seem to be commenting with glee. So whose side are you on? The Afghans or the Taliban?

SMI Oct 01, 2015 08:10pm

Why world don't understand war is not Afghanistan solution if it is it could settled long time back! Bring all parties on table to discuss and settle Afghanistan issues.

manal Oct 01, 2015 08:30pm

same repeaters itself over and over again....sad

Sudhanshu Swami Oct 01, 2015 08:31pm

Taliban are good in mountain area. They can retain their own hilly area, but cant capture other cities and retain that.

Bugti Oct 01, 2015 09:14pm

It's time to stop differentiating between good and bad Taliban and forget about any strategic depth.

Farhan Oct 01, 2015 09:50pm

Good job Afganistan. These victories will keep afghan spirit high! Focus on yiur country and chose your friends carefully. Do not side with Dictoterial nations. Democratic nations are your natural allies.

Battleaxe Oct 02, 2015 12:08am

Some flicker before light goes out always occurs.It's an ended chapter for taliban as USA will do anything to hit taliban so when talib will come so will marines .this is sure .

Shahid Khan Oct 02, 2015 01:22am

Talibaans are good at guerilla warfare. They knew that they don't have the power to retain control of a big city like Kunduz, but their takeover, however temporary was meant to show the world that they are a force to reckon with before any future peace negotiations and their incursion into Kunduz was also meant to show the world that the puppet regime of Northern Alliance (Uzbek,Tajiks, Hazarawals) placed by the americans is not acceptable to the majority of Pukhtoons population. Now they'll try another incursion, strike and vanish again. That is how Talibaans have been fighting the intruders/invaders (American & its Allies) in the recent past also. Be assured its in their blood not to allow any invading force or govt placed on behest of the invaders. The game is on and eventually the Pukhtoons or Talibaans will rule over Afghanistan again.

Hasir Oct 02, 2015 11:56am

Afghan government and military have the will to fight and beat the Taliban. The Afghan government does not distinguish between good or bad Talib.