KUNDOZ: Afghan forces backed by U.S. air support battled Taliban fighters for control of the northern city of Kunduz on Tuesday, after the militants seized a provincial capital for the first time since their ouster 14 years ago.
The sudden fall of Kunduz on Monday was a major setback for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which marked its first year in power on Tuesday, and raised questions over how ready Afghan forces were to tackle the Islamist insurgency alone.
Ghani announced in a televised address that more reinforcements were on their way to regain the city, which he said had fallen partly because government forces had shown restraint to avoid civilian casualties.
"The government is responsible, and cannot and will not bomb its own citizens."
Supply lines to Kunduz city had been interrupted by fighting in surrounding areas, according to Western and Afghan security officials.
To the south, clashes in Baghlan province closed a main route from the capital Kabul, while one convoy carrying security personnel was ambushed by Taliban insurgents.
Further afield, and independent of the action around Kunduz, fighting broke out in Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan.
At least 30 insurgents claiming loyalty to Islamic State were killed when militants attacked police checkpoints in Achin district, said Nangarhar police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal. An official said four security personnel also died.
Several small groups have broken away from the Taliban to follow Islamic State, which security experts fear will seek to exploit any divisions in the dominant Afghan militant movement.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said one reason for the assault on Kunduz was to prove that the group was still united, after the appointment of a new leader in July had angered many key figures. …Agencies