THE Taliban is preparing for an all-out assault to capture Afghanistan’s second largest city as the militants tighten their terrifying grip on the country.
The terror group have sent a wave of more than twenty suicide bombers into the southern city of Kandahar in a bloody siege as the Taliban closes in after seizing vast swathes of Afghanistan in a six-week blitz.
The Taliban have infiltrated the outskirts of the strategic city of 614,000 as fighting intensifies in southern and western neighbourhoods.
Afghan commandos have arrived to ramp up Kandahar’s defences and troops have so far managed to repel the swathes of Taliban suicide bombers, The Times reports.
But more than a dozen police posts and checkpoints have already been seized as the Taliban encircle the city from all sides.
On the southern side of the city, Afghan troops are fighting the militants as the watchtower in the main prison in Kandahar remains under siege, India Today reports.
Afghan troops in armoured vehicles have surrounded the jail as the terror group demand the release of Taliban prisoners.
Villagers living on the outskirts of Kandahar said insurgents are slowly taking over control as more and more fighters cross over the border from Pakistan.
As the last stop before the capital of Kabul on the road northeast from Kandahar, a takeover of the city could provide a launchpad for attacks on the capital.
“Fighting has intensified, the Taliban are so close and the situation is so bad,” Abduljalil Amin, head of the local peace and development committee, told The Times.
People are fleeing to other provinces, but many are trapped in their homes and lack access to food and water
“The Taliban front line is strong. Last night there were seven airstrikes to push them back. There is no Eid celebration here.
“People are fleeing to other provinces, but many are trapped in their homes and lack access to food and water.”
Kandahar was the birthplace of the Taliban as it emerged from the Afghan civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Speaking about the potential loss of the major city, a senior Afghan source told The Times: “We’d see that as significant. It would give the Taliban not just geography in a territory but some legitimacy inside Afghanistan.”
Afghan commanders also believe the Taliban is planning to capture the eastern city of Ghazni, according to reports.
“We are trying to consolidate that and use that as a base to strengthen resistance against the Taliban and then push them back,” the source said.
“The nature of the war will change because the Taliban are coming out of hiding.”
The US also launched a bombing blitz to wipe out the militants as Afghan security forces fight to maintain control in Kandahar.
TALIBAN FIGHTERS KILLED
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the strikes were in support of Afghan security forces as the Taliban infiltrates the suburbs of the city.
It’s the first US operation in Afghanistan since General Scott Miller relinquished his command of American forces and left the country last week.
The Taliban slammed the hit on the outskirts of the city as “barbaric” as spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the strikes killed three of their fighters and destroyed two vehicles.
“We confirm these air strikes and we condemn this in strongest term, it is a clear attack and violation of the Doha deal as they can’t have operations after May,” Mujahid said.
“If they conduct any operation then they will be responsible for the consequences.”
Under the original withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban, brokered by the Trump administration, all foreign troops were expected to be gone by May if the Taliban met security guarantees.
Afghan security forces will soon take revenge on these wild terrorists
Since Joe Biden’s withdrawal decision in April, violence has soared with the militants launching major offensives, taking districts and important border crossings and closing in on several provincial capitals, including Kandahar.
It comes amid growing fears the Taliban is closing in on Kabul after seizing vast swathes of Afghanistan in a six-week blitz.
Fighting has escalated in recent weeks with the insurgents capturing key border crossings with Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan in the staggering offensive.
On Tuesday, rockets struck yards from the presidential palace in the capital as Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani kneeled in prayer for Eid al-Adha.
And Afghanistan’s interior ministry accused the Taliban of killing at least 100 civilians in Spin Boldak along the Pakistan border since seizing the town last week.
“Afghan security forces will soon take revenge on these wild terrorists,” interior ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanekzai said on Twitter.
It comes as the defence ministry slammed the Taliban’s claim to hold 90 per cent of the country’s borders as an “absolute lie”.
“It is baseless propaganda,” Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman of the Ministry of Defence, told AFP.
Biden announced in April that US troops would withdraw by September 11, angering the Taliban who had expected the withdrawal to be completed by May.
Almost all US troops, except those protecting the embassy in Kabul and the capital’s airport, have left the country.
The rival Afghan sides have held peace talks in Doha but progress has been slow.
The militants have forced thousands of Afghan troops to flee, and captured hundreds of pieces of US heavy armour.
Millions face being plunged back into brutal oppression under the Taliban not seen since the invasion 20 years ago.
Earlier this week, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff General Mark Milley said the Taliban appear to have “strategic momentum” on the battlefield.
With the militants putting pressure on around half of the country’s provincial capitals, Afghan troops are in the process of “consolidating their forces” to protect those major urban centres, Milley said.
The Taliban now controls about half of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts.