Taliban ratchet up attacks on Kandahar, Ghazni cities
Gen McKenzie takes charge of remaining US forces in Afghanistan
General Kenneth McKenzi takes charge of remaining US forces in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have intensified attacks on two major Afghan cities of Kandahar and Ghazni as the command of the remaining US forces was handed to Gen Mckenzie from General Austin Miller who served in the post since 2018.
According to the Afghan media, the attacks on Kandahar and Ghazni, both provincial capitals, raised concerns among some Afghan lawmakers and residents who warn that the provincial centres will fall to the Taliban if the government in Kabul does not focus efforts to push back the attacks.
Multiple sources said that Kahmard district in Bamiyan and Garmsir district in Helmand have fallen to the Taliban in the last 24 hours. However, the Defence Ministry said that 271 Taliban fighters were killed in Afghan forces operations in the same period. The Talibave has rejected these figures.
Special forces units started an operation in Dand district and have pledged to retake the areas that have fallen to the Taliban.
“There isn’t any specific issue here. The enemy is very far from here,” said Mujahir Mohammad, a special forces member. “The highway and the areas and districts that have been captured for propaganda reasons will be taken back soon,” said a special forces member.
According to officials and other sources, clashes were underway in districts 5, 6, 7, 13 and 15 in the city of Kandahar. “The Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar is full of martyrs and the wounded,” Kandahar resident Sediqullah said.
“The situation is very bad. People have been displaced from their homes,” said Kandahar resident Samiullah.
A lawmaker from Kandahar accused the government of not paying attention to the situation in the province. “The fall of Kandahar means the fall of all Afghanistan. Favoritism in appointments in Kandahar has led to the fall of districts and now the fight has reached the city,” said Khalil Ahmad Mujahid, an MP from Kandahar.
“The clashes have reached the city of Ghazni and we have lost almost 50 percent of the city,” said the head of Ghazni’s provincial council Nasir Ahmad Faqiri.
However, the government pledged that the Taliban attacks will be pushed back. “If you think that you will continue this war for another 20 years--if you do this, another foreign force will come to the country,” presidential adviser Ibrahim Alokozai said.
Gen McKenzie takes over
Marine Gen Kenneth F McKenzie took charge of the remaining US forces in Afghanistan during a ceremony in Kabul on Monday.
The command of the forces was handed to him from Gen Austin S Miller who served in the post since 2018.
Addressing the ceremony, Gen Miller said that achieving peace has become hard as the violence remains high. He called on the Taliban to immediately reduce violence so that there is progress in talks. “The people of Afghanistan will be in my heart and on my mind for the rest of my life.” He called the post “the highlight of my military career.”
“Our job now is not to forget” those who sacrificed here, he said.
McKenzie takes the responsibility as the US and NATO’s military presence in the country will end within the next two months. The new mission is "US Forces Afghanistan Forward" involving those troops who will remain in the country to protect diplomats after the US military drawdown ends next month.
“The violence is taking place across the country, but we know that with that violence, it works very difficult to achieve as a political settlement,” Miller said. “So again, what I tell the Taliban is they’re responsible too. The violence that’s going on is against the will of the Afghan people. And it needs to stop.”
Gen McKenzie meanwhile pledged the US’s continued support for Afghan forces.
“While drawdown continues and will be ended by the end of August ... United States commitment to support the Afghan government and its armed forces carries on,” he said.
“Some gaps that have emerged after the withdrawal of foreign forces, these gaps are being filled and we are addressing the areas in need,” National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said.