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Kunduz, Helmand will not fall to Taliban: NATO

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan on Monday said that neither the capital city of Kunduz nor Helmand province would fall to the Taliban insurgents as the United States and its allies was backing Afghan security forces in these two volatile provinces.

Recently, the militants have launched a series of attacks to capture strategic districts and provinces. Intense fighting is under between the insurgents and Afghan security forces in Helmand and Kunduz provinces. The Taliban seemed to be in dominant position in these provinces as the militant group still controls over 80 percent of the two provinces.

Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications of the Resolute Support Mission, Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, claimed that neither Lashkargah nor Kunduz City will fall to the insurgent group as the militant group has failed to achieve strategic goals till date.

According to reports the Taliban are 10 kilometers far from Lashkargah, the capital city of Helmand. The militants have seized control of Nad Ali and Garmsir districts in the recent past. However, the security forces have retaken control of the districts. In Kunduz province, the Taliban captured Khanabad district for a brief period.

Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland told news reporters that the Afghan security forces are making steady progress in the two provinces.

He acknowledged that the insurgent group had tactical gains that would likely to continue. The Resolute Support Mission defines the tactical achievements of the Taliban as overrunning check-posts and centers of some districts.

“Afghan security forces are doing better this year than the last year because the insurgents have not achieved their strategic goals—to seize a population center or strategic areas in Afghanistan,” he said.

Accusing the militant organization of plundering the captured areas and stealing equipment of the Afghan security forces, Brig. Gen. Charles said the Taliban are pushed back when reinforcement arrives in the areas captured by the insurgents.

Afghan government is focused on protecting populated areas, he said, claiming that the unity government controls all population centers.

He warned of growing violence in Helmand and Kunduz provinces as the Taliban are trying to capture Lashkargah and strategic areas in Kunduz. “Afghan security forces are on the right track and they will be able to defend both Lashkargah and Kunduz,” Brig. Gen. Charles expressed confidence.

The NATO’s statement came at such a time when Chief of al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri asked his loyalists in a video message to support the Taliban while rejecting Daesh, known as the Islamic State in the west.

In the video released on Sunday, the al-Qaeda chief said that Daesh is harming their cause by “splitting the ranks of mujahideen [militants]”. He asked the al-Qaeda members and sympathizers to support the Afghan Taliban.

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