Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Balkh amid Taliban offensive for Mazar-e-Sharif
The Taliban are continuing with their offensive to capture the remaining areas in Afghanistan in an effort to establish an Islamic Emirate. They are concentrating all their efforts to capture Mazar-e-Sharif, a bustling city in the north and the capital of Balkh province.
Some politicians in Balkh province have established a new mobilisation council in the province to protect the city. This council consists of officials and representatives of the parties and has elected former Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor as its chairman. India has already evacuated its staff from Mazar-e-Sharif in the wake of raging fighting.
President Ashraf Ghani flew to Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday to rally old warlords to the defence of the biggest city in the north. Ghani convened a meeting, which was attended by top leaders including Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad Noor. The leaders discussed the security situation in the north and chalked out the plan to defend Mazar-e-Sharif from Taliban.
With US and NATO forces announcing withdrawal from the country, the Taliban have intensified their assault on major cities and seized control of Sar-e-Pul, Sheberghan, Aybak, Kunduz, Taluqan, Pul-e-Khumri, Farah, Zaranj.
The loss of Faizabad, the capital city of Badakhshan, on Wednesday was the latest setback for the Afghan government, which has been struggling to stem the momentum of Taliban.
Faizabad is the eighth provincial capital to fall since last week. According to local reports, 65 per cent of Afghanistan's territory is already under the control of the Sunni Pashtun insurgent group.
The Afghan defence ministry said on Wednesday that 439 Taliban terrorists were killed and 77 injured in different operations carried out by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) across Afghan provinces in the past 24 hours. The neutralised terrorists also included four terrorists of Pakistani origin.
As Taliban fighters continue to overrun swathes of land in Afghanistan, more and more cases of human rights violations are being reported. Afghan minister of justice Fazil Ahmad Manawi said that the country’s children are being forcefully taken by Taliban across the Durand Line into Pakistan where they are being trained in terrorism in the name of Islamic education. The Afghan Minister stated that children aged 13 and 14 were often taken to remote areas and districts of Afghanistan by so-called ‘religious scholars’ with deceptive Islamic teachings and sent to Balochistan.
Voices of condemnation are coming from various quarters, particularly from Afghan residents who are demanding the global community to free the country from the scourge of Taliban. Among them is Afghan cricketer Rashid Khan who urged world leaders through a tweet on Tuesday that thousands of families have been displaced. “Don’t leave us in chaos. Stop killing Afghans and destroying Afghanistan.”
Afghan human rights watchdog Women’s United Voice Advisory Group on Peace Policy said that the Taliban’s action of forceful marriages , which it termed as “jihad marriage”, should be documented worldwide and the group’s crimes against women should be documented in cooperation with human rights organizations.
Afghanistan’s acting minister of finance Khalid Payenda stepped down on Tuesday and left Kabul for the US. however, local media reports said Payenda was fired by President Ashraf Ghani due to his incompetence and lack of achievement.
China, meanwhile, has said that it is ready to play a ‘constructive role’ in facilitating negotiations through various channels to promote peaceful settlement of the Afghan issue. In an interview with China Central Television (CCTV), China’s special envoy for Afghan affairs, Yue Xiaoyong, said, “China will make unremitting efforts with the international community, neighboring countries and countries in the region."
A multilateral meeting on Afghan peace process was held in Doha on Tuesday, in which special envoys on Afghanistan and interlocutors called parties for a political settlement to achieve enduring peace in the county. Representatives from China, the US, the UK, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, the United Nations, and the European Union participated in the meeting.