KUNDUZ: Fear stalked Kunduz on Thursday as residents prepared for a lengthy siege, with Afghan forces patrolling the streets and Taliban surrounding the northern city.
The Taliban have held the city twice in recent years — both times briefly — but have now captured the surrounding districts and the main border crossing with Tajikistan.
“The Taliban have besieged our city,” said Qudratullah, a fruit seller who has done hardly any business since fighting erupted in Kunduz province two weeks ago.
“Even today there is sporadic fighting on the outskirts of the city,” said Qudratullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
“If the government does not launch an operation against the Taliban, their siege will continue for a long time.” Most businesses in Kunduz remained shut and vehicles stayed off the roads this week.
Dozens of military vehicles patrol the streets as the Afghan army deployed fresh units in the city of around 300,000, swelled by an influx of rural residents fleeing fighting in the districts.
Troops were seen firing sporadically at Taliban positions, and the bodies of two militants lay on the ground on the eastern edge of Kunduz.
The city’s public health director said that since the fighting erupted a week ago, 21 civilians have been killed and 225 wounded.
Residents said they were suffering from water and power cuts, and few shops were open.
Kunduz resident Hasib said he feared the Taliban would soon launch a major offensive on the city.
“We don’t feel safe... We have seen the Taliban capture the city twice before, and we do not want the city to fall again to them,” he said.
“The government forces should break the Taliban siege, if not the Taliban will continue their offensives... and their siege will continue forever.”
Fighting has raged across Kunduz province for days, with the Taliban and Afghan forces engaged in bloody battles.
On Tuesday the militants captured Shir Khan Bandar, Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan, in one of their most significant gains in recent months.
On Thursday, Afghan authorities attempted to put on a brave front, with Interior Minister Abdul Satar Mirzakwal flying in for a brief visit.
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2021