21 August, 2014
Kunduz province has become the focal point of intense fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban militants, with thousands of insurgents bearing down on Kunduz city. According to local officials, the Taliban offensive is being led by a man who the Afghan government recently released from prison.
The attacks started during Eid, but have continued in a steady stream of insurgent advancements, particularly in the Chahar Dara district. Kunduz Police Chief Ghulam Mustafa Mohseni has maintained the insurgents are being led by a former detainee named Mawlawi Salam.
"Mawlawi Salam is leading over 2,500 Taliban members in this battle, he is the person who was released from prison and now is fighting on the battlefield," Chief Mohseni said.
In Chahar Dara, the Taliban were able to seize 15 check posts and lay siege to a number of others. After a full day and night of fighting, though, the Afghan forces were able to push the militants back.
The Afghan security forces have freed up parts of Chahar Dara and Gor Tepa districts, but those achievements did not come easily, and it is unclear if they will hold up.
The security forces face major challenges in combating the militant offensive, which began just 10 days ago, but came on the heals of a number of other large-scale aggressions by insurgents in provinces around the country over the past couple months.
Another serious issue, and impediment to the security forces, is that the Taliban have been hiding among local civilian populations, forcing the Afghan army and police to take extra precautions and move in close in order to avoid civilian casualties.
Although officials have reported that some of the militants are foreign nationals form Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya and Pakistan, local residents have maintained that the Taliban are receiving support from local communities because of animosity toward the local police force.
"The Taliban are not imported from abroad, Taliban are our own children, we are Kochi and the local police are cruel to us, that is why we fight and if the police stop the cruelty, we will not fight with the government," one resident said. "We are not fighting with government, we just want to confront the local police."