KUNDUZ -- In a cowardly attempt to escape from Afghan security forces, Taliban militants have resorted to destroying local infrastructure, including a highway connecting Faryab and Jawzjan provinces.
Taliban militants gouged out a huge section of the Maimana-Jawzjan highway by using excavators in an effort to restrict the movement of Afghan security forces in and out of Maimana, said Hashim Bai Astana, the police chief for Sherin Tagab District, Faryab Province.
"The Taliban assume that Afghan forces cannot follow and target them once they sever the road," he told Salaam Times October 10. "They, however, [must know that] we have other means that we can use to pursue and capture them."
"Destruction of the road is a cowardly act and a display of their weakness," he said.
Back on October 1, the Taliban had attempted to block the highway by placing stones and gravel on the road, Astana explained.
The Taliban's devastation of the highway is unforgivable, said Arbab, a 43-year-old resident of Sherin Tagab who gave a pseudonym.
The Taliban "destroy public roads based on the orders they receive from foreigners and carry out such acts of oppression against their own people and their country," he told Salaam Times.
"Such vile acts of hatred and rage against the Afghan people will result in further hatred [towards the Taliban]," he said.
Transportation troubles, delays
Residents and motorists who frequent the Jawzjan-Faryab route say they now have to travel on the unpaved or "khama" road adjacent to the wrecked highway.
"I had a sick [relative] whom I had to transfer from Sherin Tagab to the provincial capital of Maimana, but the road was destroyed," Mohammad Baik Twardi, 38, a farmer in Shirin Tagab, told Salaam Times. "We ended up taking a much longer route and going through a lot of trouble."
"In the past, before the road was damaged, we were able to reach Maimana more quickly and more easily," he said. "Now we face many difficulties."
The loss of the road has caused much difficulty, not only in transporting hospital patients but in delivering farm products on time to markets.
Following orders they receive from foreign leaders, the Taliban want to raze Afghanistan's infrastructure and create problems for the population, said Abdul Karim Yoresh, a spokesman for the Faryab provincial police chief.
"Through the destruction of the highway ... the Taliban have once again revealed their dark and despicable faces, showcasing their achievements for their supporters," he told Salaam Times.
The goal in wrecking the highway "is to create insecurity in the area and to prevent the passage of Afghan forces' convoys", he said. "They want to block the road for government vehicles, while also forcing civilian vehicles to travel on secondary roads in areas under their control."
Nevertheless, the local government is determined to rebuild the highway, Yoresh said.
'A crime against humanity'
The Taliban are not new to such vandalism. They laid waste to another transportation route in the area in September 2016.
"The Taliban brought six electric chainsaws, electric generators, and special cutters," Ezatullah Hamidi, 28, a resident of Chahar Dara District, Kunduz Province, told Salaam Times of the past sabotage. "Eventually, they destroyed 4km of this road."
"Several powerful machines and generators were involved in demolishing the road," he said. "They even forced local residents to work on smashing the road, while [militants] were monitoring them every day."
In response to the Taliban's wantonness, the Afghan National Army carried out an air strike September 18, 2016, killing and wounding several militants, according to former Kunduz provincial governor Asadullah Amarkhil.
Abdul Ghafoor Hotak, a civil society activist in Kunduz, called the targeting of public infrastructure "a crime against humanity".
"Once we found out that the Taliban were breaking up a road in the Omarkhil area with chainsaws, we contacted the Taliban shadow district governor, Mawlawi Abdul Salaam, asking him not to destroy the road that belonged to the public," he told Salaam Times, referring to the same road as Hamidi.
The effort was "to no avail since the Taliban rejected our calls", he said.