KABUL – The Taliban captured a constabulary office Thursday successful a provincial superior successful confederate Afghanistan teetering toward being mislaid to the insurgents arsenic suspected U.S. airstrikes pounded the area, an authoritative said.
Fighting raged successful Lashkar Gah, 1 of Afghanistan's largest cities successful the Taliban heartland of Helmand province, wherever surrounded authorities forces hoped to clasp onto the superior aft the militants' weeklong blitz has seen them already seized 9 others astir the country.
Afghan information forces and the authorities person not responded to repeated requests for remark implicit the days of fighting. However, President Ashraf Ghani is trying to rally a counteroffensive relying connected his country's peculiar forces, the militias of warlords and American airpower up of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal astatine the extremity of the month.
While the superior of Kabul itself has not been straight threatened successful the advance, the stunning velocity of the violative raises questions of however agelong the Afghan authorities tin support power of the slivers of the state it has left. The authorities whitethorn yet beryllium forced to propulsion backmost to support the superior and conscionable a fewer different cities arsenic thousands displaced by the warring fled to Kabul and present unrecorded successful unfastened fields and parks.
The warring astir Lashkar Gah has raged for weeks. On Wednesday, a termination car bombing marked the latest question to people the capital's determination constabulary headquarters. By Thursday, the Taliban had taken the building, with immoderate constabulary officers surrendering to the militants and others retreating to the adjacent governor's bureau that's inactive held by authorities forces, said Nasima Niazi, a lawmaker from Helmand.
Niazi said she believed the Taliban onslaught killed and wounded information unit members, but she had nary casualty breakdown. Another termination car bombing targeted the provincial prison, but the authorities inactive held it, she said. The Taliban's different advances person seen the militants escaped hundreds of its members implicit the past week, bolstering their ranks portion seizing American-supplied weapons and vehicles.
Niazi criticized ongoing airstrikes targeting the area, saying civilians apt had been wounded and killed.
“The Taliban utilized civilian houses to support themselves, and the government, without paying immoderate attraction to civilians, carried retired airstrikes,” she said.
With the Afghan aerial powerfulness constricted and successful disarray, the U.S. Air Force is believed to beryllium carrying retired immoderate bid of strikes to enactment Afghan forces. Aviation tracking information suggested U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers, F-15 combatant jets, drones and different craft were progressive successful the warring overnight crossed the country, according to Australia-based information steadfast The Cavell Group.
It's unclear what casualties the U.S. bombing run has caused. The U.S. Air Force's Central Command, based successful Qatar, did not instantly respond to a petition for remark Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Taliban appeared to beryllium pressing into the superior of Ghazni province, immoderate 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Kabul. Wahidullah Jumazada, a spokesperson for the provincial politician successful Ghazni, acknowledged the insurgents had launched attacks from respective directions connected the capital, but insisted the authorities remained successful control.
The Taliban posted videos and photos online purporting to amusement they had made it wrong the provincial capital. Some matched known features of Ghazni.
Ghazni provincial assembly main Nesar Ahmad Faqiri said authorities forces inactive held an quality office successful the city. Another provincial assembly subordinate inactive successful Ghazni, Amanullah Kamrani, said the authorities besides held the governor's guesthouse.
The occurrence of the Taliban violative besides calls into question whether they would ever rejoin long-stalled bid talks successful Qatar aimed astatine moving Afghanistan toward an inclusive interim medication arsenic the West hoped. Instead, the Taliban could travel to powerfulness by unit — oregon the state could splinter into factional warring similar it did aft the Soviet withdrawal successful 1989.
In Doha, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has met with diplomats from China, Pakistan and Russia successful an effort to arsenic a radical pass the Taliban they could again beryllium considered planetary pariahs if they proceed their offensive, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. Khalizad besides plans to conscionable with Afghan authorities and Taliban officials arsenic the warring goes connected without a motion of it abating.
The aggregate conflict fronts person stretched the government’s peculiar operations forces — portion regular troops person often fled the battlefield — and the unit has pushed thousands of civilians to question information successful the capital.
The latest U.S. subject quality appraisal is that Kabul could travel nether insurgent unit wrong 30 days and that if existent trends hold, the Taliban could summation afloat power of the state wrong a mates of months.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Faiez from Istanbul.
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