Monday, September 20, 2021

Curfew imposed in Afghanistan as Taliban threaten cities

Taliban fighters have been closing in on a number of major cities but have not yet been able to capture one.

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The Afghan government imposed a month-long curfew across almost all of the country at the weekend in a bid to stop the Taliban from taking over major cities.

The curfew bans all movement from 10pm to 4am.

The interior ministry said the new curfew was “to curb violence and limit the Taliban movements”, adding that Kabul, Panjshir and Nangarhar were exempt.

Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has increased over the past two months as international troops pull out of the country.

The militant group is thought to have captured up to half of the country, predominantly rural areas.

As US forces have withdrawn, the Taliban has made rapid gains, retaking border crossings and rural areas.

There are concerns that with peace talks in Doha moving slowly, the focus of the fighting will increasingly turn to more heavily populated urban centres.

Taliban fighters have been closing in on a number of major cities, but have not yet been able to capture one. That has prompted a top American commander to say the US will continue carrying out airstrikes in support of Afghan troops.

General Kenneth MacKenzie said a Taliban victory is not inevitable but he did not say if the strikes would continue beyond the end of the US military mission on Aug 31.

The Taliban – a fundamentalist Islamist militia who were pushed out of power by the US invasion nearly 20 years ago – has also seized key roads as it seeks to cut off supply routes.

As the Taliban continues to advance, fierce clashes have taken place outside the city of Kandahar.

In response, the US launched airstrikes against militants in the area on Thursday. But with US operations in Afghanistan officially ending on Aug 31, there are concerns about the months ahead.

US-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in October 2001. The group had been harbouring Osama Bin Laden and other figures linked to the Sept 11 attacks on the US.

President Joe Biden has said the American pull-out is justified as US forces have made sure Afghanistan cannot again become a base for foreign jihadists to plot against the West.

Earlier this month, American troops quietly departed from Bagram airfield, a sprawling base that was the centre of US operations in Afghanistan and once held tens of thousands of international troops.

Some US analysts fear the Taliban could take control of the country within six months.

However, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the security forces could make progress, and their priority should be to slow the momentum of the Taliban advance before trying to take territory from them.

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