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Mounting insecurity in Kunduz: A mix of optimism and pessimism

“The Taliban has warned the local people to stay at their homes. The insurgents say that if they are going to be killed in the battle the civilians should also share the same fate.”

Abdul Zuhoor Qayomi-KABUL: Residents of Kunduz province are concerned about their security as the Afghan security forces and the Taliban are engaged in fierce clashes in different parts of the province.

They say that continued fighting had put negative impact on their life and made them hopeless about their future. They also believe that peace and stability would not return back to their areas, and the condition would become worse as there is no end in sight to the chaos and clashes. It has been over a month that Afghan security forces are battling the insurgent group to gain control over insecure areas.

The villagers are under pressure of the insurgents and their houses are destroyed during gunfight. They said that their houses were destroyed because the Taliban have made civilian homes as their stronghold in the fight against security forces.

The Taliban in the areas, that they have controlled, are forcing people to feed them despite the fact that most of the residents are poor and associated with agriculture sector. Agriculture sector has been also on the verge of collapse as the farmers could not go to the fields and harvest crops.

Sakhi, a villager in Asqalan area near the capital of Kunduz, told Afghanistan Times that the Taliban do not allow the dwellers to leave the areas. They are used as a shield and forced to provide meals to the insurgents. Most of the militants live in civilian houses and launch attacks against government forces.

While slamming the government for failure to prevent the insurgents from infiltration into the province, he said: “The Taliban has warned the local people to stay at their homes. The insurgents say that if they are going to be killed in the battle the civilians should also share the same fate.”

Regarding nationality of the militants in his area, he said that insurgents fighting against security forces are mostly Afghans from different ethnic groups including Tajik, Pashtun, Uzbek and Turkmen.

“They came from other northern parts of the country. We have not seen any foreign fighter. These are rumors. I have not seen Chechens or militants of other nationality,” said Sakhi.

Recently, President Ashraf Ghani has said that militants from ten different countries are involved in the mounting insecurity in the country.

Fawad, another resident of the province working as a waiter in a local restaurant, said that their business is declining because people are concerned about their safety in Kunduz.

“People became jobless due to the growing insurgency in the province. Crops were destroyed. The clashes have also damage the local businesses,” he said.

The attacks between the anti-state group and government forces have also displaced thousands of families in different parts of the province.

Some of the residents left their homes along with their cattle and have moved towards the city as the fear of clashes are looming in many part of the province, said Fawad, adding that for the time being some of the displaced families are staying in their relatives’ houses in the city while others have set up tents in deserts.

However, he is optimistic about the law and order situation while hoping that Afghan security forces would clear Kunduz from the insurgents.

“When the security forces retaken Chardara district from the Taliban, the citizens were happy and their trust over the security forces’ capability doubled,” he said.

The people are sure that the Taliban now would not be able to seize control of the city, once again. Security forces are fighting the Taliban to eliminate their remaining havens, he told.

Chardara, Khan Abad, Dasht-e-Archi and Asqalan are the main areas that have turned into battlefield. At night time Afghan Air Force targets insurgents’ hideouts.

Abdul Ahad, a farmer in Pul-e-Allchin area near Kunduz City, said the Taliban had controlled the area he is living in, but only for a few days. He said the security forces were quick enough to retake the control.

The Taliban captured the area nearly a month ago for one week, but later lost the control. The militants tortured those who worked for the government, he added.

Abdullah, a farmer in Talawka area of the province, said that most of the wheat crop caught fire due to the clashes between security forces and the Taliban. “Nearly, 25,200 kilogram wheat was torched in my area,” said Abdullah.

Replying to a question, he said that now the area is under the control of the Taliban and are using civilian homes as shelters. “The local prefers the Afghan government than the Taliban, but many people were displaced and living in the deserts and have no facility. They have not received the required aid. I was also among the displaced people. No one helped me,” said Abdullah.

Abdul Kareem, a shopkeeper in Kunduz, said that the ambiguous policy of the Afghan government made people hopeless.

“The battle is ceased suddenly. The real picture is unclear. Though, public trust Afghan security forces, but the locals are still unsure that if the security situation would normalize again in the province. They are of the view that the city might collapse to the Taliban because the military offensives are well-organized. The citizens are not living in normal condition like before,” he said.

He went on to say that some people have purchased food stuff and other items as a precautionary measure, because they do not know that when the battle would be over. Locals believe that insecurity would engulf other northern parts of the country as well.

“Well-to-do families have left Kunduz while the poor are stranded. Many displaced families have no other option but to set up tents in deserts in Chardara district and bear the 42 degree centigrade heat,” said Kareem.

Afghanistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) has recently said that investment has ‘fled’ from the north.

Local media has reported that huge quantity of weapons was also fallen into the hands of the Taliban when security forces were retreating from Chardara.

The Taliban in a video clip showed that police have left their Humvees, ACPs, light and heavy weapons in Chardara district of Kunduz.

Minister of Interior, Noorul Haq Ulomi, said that some security personnel have sold their posts to the militant group.

Ministry of Defense said that they would investigate the issue.

Ulomi also has assured that the security forces would eliminate the insurgents within next six months, from every part of the country.

Chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) Rahmatullah Nabil has said that policy of the spy agency against the enemies including Daesh and Taliban are the same. He said that both groups would be eliminated.

The interior ministry spokesman, Siddiq Siddiqi, said that those who are challenging writ of the government would be dealt “with iron hands”.

The defense ministry has also made similar statements. However, the time would tell to what extent the officials would succeeded in proving the claims that they have made.

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