Security

Taliban blow up bridge in Takhar, cutting off thousands of villagers

By Hedayatullah

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This undated photo shows a bridge in the Khwaja Changaal area of Takhar Province that was blown up by the Taliban last June 24 in an attempt to thwart the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), according to local authorities and residents. [Facebook]

KUNDUZ -- The Taliban are continuing to blow up bridges in an attempt to stymie Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and hinder the Afghan government's reconstruction plans.

In the latest incident, the Taliban destroyed a 6-metre-long bridge in Qulbars village on the outskirts of Taloqan, Takhar Province, on April 20, according to local authorities and residents.

"The Taliban fighters blew up this bridge in Qulbars village at about midnight, cutting off 1,000 families from the capital of Takhar Province," said Abdul Khalil Aseer, a spokesperson for Takhar police.

"Taliban fighters destroyed the Qulbars bridge to prevent the security forces from chasing them," he said, adding that the group targeted two other bridges in Taloqan over the past two weeks.

On April 5, the Taliban destroyed a bridge with a mine explosion in Shinwari village of Taloqan, Aseer said. The bridge connected Baharak District to the Takhar-Kunduz highway.

The same group on April 16 "placed a mine under a the culvert on the Takhar–Kunduz highway near the Khaspaka area in Taloqan", he added. Takhar police engineers defused the bomb before it exploded.

The Taliban have a long history of destroying key infrastructure, including bridges and roads, schools, telecom equipment and health centres.

For example, the Taliban July 31, 2015, demolished a 120-metre-long bridge built by the Ministry of Public Works in Qala-e-Zal District of Kunduz Province.

Similarly last June 24, the Taliban blew up a 100-metre-long bridge in Khwaja Changaal area in Taloqan, cutting off 20 villages in Takhar Province.

More recently, on February 3, the Taliban burned down Bodala Girls' Middle School, 5km from Taloqan.

Over the past year the Taliban have set fire to 10 telecom towers in Bangi, Khwaja Ghar, Ishkamish and Hazar Sumuch districts, Abdul Ghafoor Talash, director of Communications and IT in Takhar Province, said earlier this month.

Taliban not committed to peace

Taloqan residents have condemned the Taliban's destruction of essential infrastructure.

"Our government begs for money [from the international community] to build us roads, bridges and schools, but this group mercilessly destroys them," said Abdul Rahim Nawabi, a member of the Qulbars village council.

"We were cut off in the month of Ramadan; we can't afford to rebuild [the bridge]," he said.

With the destruction of the bridge, residents of seven villages are facing a shortage of food, said Abdullah Kakar, a resident of Nawabad village in Taloqan city.

"Everyone in these villages is poor," he said. "Some of them used to go to Taloqan for work every day, but now that the bridge has been destroyed, everyone is in shock and feels anxious."

"If the Taliban were real Afghans, they would never stand against their people and harm their government," he said. "It is obvious that they are slaves [of others]."

These destructive acts of the Taliban show that they are not committed to the peace process, said Muhammad Farid Mirzapur, a resident of Takhar Province.

"If they don't refrain from killing civilians and security forces, and destroying public installations, civilians will lose their trust in the peace process," he said.

Prioritising rebuilding

According to its strategic plans, the Afghan government has always tried to prioritise infrastructure projects in its development agenda, said Mustafa Rasouli, director of the technical and sectoral services department in Takhar Province.

"It is much easier to destroy a road, a bridge, a clinic or a school, but it takes months and even years to rebuild it," he said.

The Takhar local government is working to immediately address the transportation problems facing the affected villages, he added.

"The Taliban have sustained heavy casualties in Ishkamish, Yangi Qala, Darqad, Khwaja Ghar and Namak Aab districts over the past month," said Aseer, the Takhar police spokesperson. "Therefore, they want to blow up bridges to avoid being chased by security forces."

The Taliban have nowhere to hide in the province, and additional ANDSF operations will soon be launched against them, he said.

"In the beginning, we plan to secure the Takhar-Kunduz highway along which the Taliban cause disturbances," he said. "We will establish new checkpoints on this route."

"Next, we are planning to launch comprehensive operations to flush out the terrorists from all the insecure areas," Aseer said.

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Taliban destroy infrastructures and public utility facilities with the orders from Pakistan. I ask Taliban, do you know how much is the price of building a bridge? Do you know in how many months or even years a bridge is built? Do you know how much loss does the destruction of a bridge inflict on the people of Afghanistan’s villages and hamlets? Do you know how long will it take to rebuild a bridge that is destroyed? Do the bridges that you are destroying belong to the government or people? Do you know how much loss you cause to the people’s economy by destroying of infrastructures? You know all these things well, but you are not independent. You are doing this to please your Pakistani masters.

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Once Afghanistan itself was an example of a good system or power for the region. Our neighbors rarely had such military equipment. All these were destroyed because of jihad and resistance. Before people came to Kabul from Turkey to study medicine. Now our students go to Peshawar to study. This is because of jihad. Most countries did not know what an spacecraft-ship was. We Afghans won this honor by any means and we could step into space. Today, our tomatoes come from neighboring countries. This is one of the wonders of our jihad. We had the best fighter jets and transport planes, where are they now? Again it is because of jihad.

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Destroying of public bridges and public utility centers has been passed down from jihadist groups established by Pakistan to destroy Afghanistan, not to kill Russians. Over the past four decades, Mujahedeen and Taliban destroyed bridges and infrastructures in this country with the order from the foreigners, and still our people suffer a lot from this area. During the anti-Russian resistance war and the wars between Jihadist groups and Taliban, almost all major bridges of highways in the country were blown up. Ahmad Shah Massoud, in particular, tried to blow up bridges and culverts with such an open arm that he was once called "Bridge destroyer." For example, now I have a pamphlet from Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan [party], entitled "The Seventh and Eighth Attacks of Russians on Panjshir Valley, 1984," in which Ahmad Shah Massoud proudly mentioned the destruction of Mattak Bridge and four other bridges along the Salang Road. Hafiz Mansour also spoke in his treatise "Panjshir during Jihad" (p. 77) about the mission of a group assigned by Massoud who destroyed five large bridges along the Kabul-Salang highway." All destruction programs of Afghanistan's infrastructures are planned by ISI and implemented by fundamentalist groups.

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Unfortunately, we have to accept that Mujahedeen passed down this bad legacy, ignorance and stupidity. At that time, they were killing teachers, engineers and even people who listened to the news on the radio, as corrupt, debauchee and rakish persons. There is no doubt that the ignorance of these two groups: Taliban and Mujahedeen is similar, but in my opinion, the betrayal and destruction which Mujahedeen caused on this land, Taliban have not caused it. These Mujahedeen caused the emergence of Taliban, Arab, Al-Qaida, etc., and finally 56 countries came to this land, and even today Mujahedeen appear as defenders of the people on the stage putting on ties and suits and claim open-mindedness. It doesn't matter which party they belong to, in general, all Mujahedeen are the same. Unfortunately, ignorant, vagrant, vicious, mentally retarded people are still following them and supporting their blind policies. If the very lentils eating civilians and illiterate people of Pakistan demonstrate against their government, they do not break a single glass of a shop. Do you know, why?? Because they understand that the same glass belongs to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan, and it is considered damage. Millions of people protest, but no one gets hurt; however, our politicians, due to their personal interests and survival, gather a number of ignorant, illiterate and stupid people, and later they shamelessly speak on TV that they will seize civilian facilities on the first day, and on the second day they will seize military installations, the next day, they will launch a coup d'état, a few flatterers support them by chanting the slogan of Allah Akbar (God is Great). This is our love with our homeland. You can compare the lentils eating dirty Pakistanis with their 65-year history and look at us with our 2,000-year history.

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People strongly condemn destruction of the public assets. Destroying public assets, especially land transport facilities, bridges, and roads, inflicts blow to the economic development and trade. Destroying bridges and facilities of public utilities mostly affect ordinary citizens. The government must deal seriously with all those who are destroying public utility facilities, such as bridges, power lines and other infrastructures. Death to the savage Taliban.

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Taliban are unable to confront the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces; therefore, they destroy the bridges. Taliban come secretly, and attack Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police bases, and cowardly martyr our brave soldiers and then they flee. They are cowards. Taliban cannot confront the valiant forces of our country on the battlefield. Whenever Taliban fighters come under pressure by the Afghan forces, they escape and blow up bridges in order to save their lives. If Taliban do not destroy the bridges, our security forces will pursue them and arrest them all and bring them to justice.

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