The loss of the major city of Kunduz to the Taliban is a stunning reversal for the Afghan government, deepening worries about the ability of its security forces to take the fight to the Islamic militants.
The USA military carried out one airstrike only on Tuesday on the city “in order to eliminate a threat to the force”, spokesman U.S. Col. Brian Tribus said.
The militants no longer held sway in the main cities but remained a deadly foe, clashing with foreign troops over Afghanistan’s rugged terrain and launching frequent suicide attacks in population centers. Violence has steadily increased since the departure of US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops a year ago, and Afghan security forces have been unable to fill the gap.
Afghan army deputy chief General Murad Ali said the Afghan security forces retreated from Kunduz city the previous day to prevent civilian casualties.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that fighters would make an advance on the airport too, but witnesses told BBC Afghan there was no sign of any such movement yet.
Marauding insurgents stormed the local jail, freeing hundreds of prisoners, including a few Taliban commanders, officials said.
Residents in Kunduz said the Taliban were patrolling the streets in vehicles they had seized from the army, police and Western aid agencies.
The group has been largely absent from Afghan cities since being driven from power by the USA and its allies, but has maintained rule over swaths of the countryside.
Moreover, Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor in an online statement described capturing Kunduz city as a major victory and congratulated to all his fighters and Afghans.
Kunduz Province is strategic as it is located on a crossroad that connects key regions of the country.
Germany’s defence minister signalled on Tuesday that she was open to delaying the withdrawal of German soldiers from Afghanistan beyond next year after the Taliban’s surprise seizure of the northern city of Kunduz on Monday.
On Sunday, 13 people were killed and 33 wounded at a volleyball match in the eastern province of Paktika.
And the release of 500 prisoners by the Taliban makes the security situation in Kunduz even more challenging.
The Taliban militants, according to local media reports, have attacked police checkpoints in Yangi district of the northern Takhar province early Tuesday and sporadic fighting is still continuing. They were forced to drop back and prepare to launch a counterattack on the city.