KABUL -- Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) are prepared to defend against any attempts by militant groups to capture city centers across the country, authorities from the Defence and Interior Affairs ministries say.
The proof is that armed anti-government elements have not been able to hold any of Afghanistan's major cities or provincial capitals after almost two decades of war.
In the latest such attempt, the Taliban attacked Kunduz on July 22 from several directions but met fierce resistance from Afghan forces. Following a six-hour firefight, the Taliban retreated after suffering heavy casualties, according to local officials.
"If the enemy thinks that they are able to seize everything, they're just fantasising as it isn't possible," acting Defence Minister Asadullah Khalid said at a gathering in Kabul on September 17. "We have trained air force, infantry and special squads that are unique in the region, and we are ready to defend every bit of our soil."
His comments came as representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban are engaged in the early stages of peace talks in Doha, Qatar, despite ongoing violence in pockets of Afghanistan.
"The violence has increased for various reasons," he said. "They might have escalated the fighting so they can bargain from a stronger position at the negotiating table, but what the Afghan people want from the bottom of their hearts is to achieve a comprehensive peace."
The ANDSF are committed to protecting Afghanistan and achieving peace, said Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Defence.
"It is our duty to defend Afghanistan and its people, and we're committed to protecting Afghanistan and Afghans," he said. "The ANDSF are ready every moment to defend every part of Afghanistan -- from major cities to the remotest villages -- against enemy attacks."
"The ANDSF are implementing a clear plan to contain the enemy's assaults in every major city, and they will continue to respond strongly," Aman said.
Defending Afghanistan's cities
The Taliban have been trying for years to capture major cities and provincial capitals to no avail, said Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
"They have attacked Kunduz city, Farah city and other areas several times, but the security forces foiled these efforts of the group and even recaptured nine strategic districts from the Taliban last year," he said.
"We want to reassure our people that the ANDSF are fully prepared to foil every attack of the enemy in major cities, and they're able to contain any potential attacks on major cities and provincial capitals," Arian said.
"The ANDSF have received advanced military training and are equipped with modern ammunition and weapons, and they have bravely and honestly defended their people and soil for the past two decades," he said.
"The ANDSF ... are ready to fight for the defence and security of Afghans and to make sacrifices," he said.
"There is no doubt about the military capabilities of the Afghan security forces as they are able to defend major cities, provinces and the public against the attacks of armed anti-government forces under the worst circumstances," said Hafiz Abdul Qayum, who served as governor of Nuristan Province from February 2014 to July 2020.
"We are in the process of intra-Afghan peace talks, and people expect parties to the conflict to reduce violence or declare a ceasefire," he said. "But if the Taliban try to increase their attacks on major cities and provincial centres so that they can have leverage at the negotiating table ... they are making a strategic mistake. They will face forces who have been trained at the level of international forces."
"When I was the governor of Nuristan ... armed anti-government elements made every effort to capture Do Aab, Waigal, Barg-i-Matal and Kamdesh districts in Nuristan Province, but the security forces didn't allow them to take over these districts," he said. "The anti-government elements saw heavy casualties, and their attacks were defeated, and they were pushed back to their havens."
"Our forces are well trained; we have strong commandos," he said. "Afghans should not be worried about an increase in the attacks of anti-government elements in major cities, because the security forces are able to contain these attacks and save the lives of Afghans as they have done in the past two decades."
'A strong and disciplined force'
"The government and international community have given considerable attention to train, finance and equip the ANDSF for the past 19 years, and today the country has a strong and disciplined force that can respond to any military action by the enemy," said Lutfullah Mashal, a former spokesman for the National Directorate of Security and a military affairs analyst.
"If the security forces retain their current level of military resources, armed anti-government elements won't be able to attack the provincial centres and strategic cities in the first place, but if they do attack, the security forces have the ability to defend the provinces and major cities," he said.
"The Taliban mobilised all their military resources and forces so that they could take over Ghazni, Kunduz, Farah, Paktia and other important parts of the country, but the security forces stopped the Taliban from capturing provinces and major cities," Mashal said.
"Afghan commandos are highly capable," he said. "A while ago, the Taliban planned to capture Ghazni city, but when commandos were deployed to Ghazni, the Taliban were not able to launch their attack."
The ANDSF are "patriots" and are prepared to contain any increase in violence, said Ghulam Wali Afghan, a member of the Wolesi Jirga from Helmand Province.
"Armed anti-government elements have recently increased their attacks," he said. "They might strike major cities and provincial capitals to display their power and improve their bargaining leverage ... but our people shouldn't be worried at all about such attacks."
"Our security forces have been able to successfully foil major attacks by armed anti-government elements for the past two decades and prevent them from capturing major cities and provincial capitals," he said.