Afghan troops gathered Tuesday at an airport on the outskirts of Kunduz, preparing for a counter offensive against Taliban fighters who took control of the northern city Monday in their first major urban seizure since being ousted from power in 2001.
The Taliban assault drew alarm and condemnation from Afghan officials and the United Nations.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said during an address late Monday at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York that some of the attackers had come from abroad. He called on Pakistan to live up to a promise to crack down on known terror groups.
“We also call on regional stakeholders and our international partners to realize the gravity of the situation, and use their good offices or any effective means to support our aspirations for a genuine and durable confidence-building peace process leading to talks with willing Taliban and other armed opposition groups,” he said.
Through his spokesman, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and stressed the need for “a peaceful settlement of differences” in Afghanistan.
The Taliban launched their offensive before dawn on Monday, and witnesses say the insurgents’ white flag was hoisted over the city’s main square by the evening. Taliban officials said they captured the governor’s compound and the provincial police headquarters.
The insurgents also released hundreds of prisoners from the city’s detention facility.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi told VOA earlier in the day that national security forces killed up to 25 insurgents, claiming there were no casualties among Afghan forces. Media outlets, however, reported that dozens of local police were killed or wounded.
Taliban insurgents have taken parts of the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, while the provinces of Nangarhar and Paktika suffered attacks from the Islamic State over the weekend.
Sediqi told reporters later Monday that most of Kunduz had fallen to the Taliban and said Afghan forces were regrouping at the airport.
The fall of Kunduz is a large setback for Afghan government forces, who have struggled to fight the Taliban since the withdrawal last year of U.S. and NATO combat troops.
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