KABUL -- Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) -- with an increasing number of public uprising forces by their side -- are taking back control of districts in northern Afghanistan that were briefly overrun by the Taliban.
"[ANDSF] are advancing in the northern provinces with the support of public forces and have been able to retake six districts so far," Fawad Aman, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, said last Thursday (June 24).
"Balkh district of Balkh province, Doshi district of Baghlan, Aliabad district of Kunduz and Dawlatabad district of Faryab, as well as Bangi and Farkhar districts of Takhar are among districts that the security forces have retaken," he said.
"There is a clear plan to retake all of the districts from the Taliban," Aman said.
"Taliban attacks have been repulsed, and security and public uprising forces are advancing. In a few days, all of the areas will be liberated from Taliban control."
"Hundreds of Taliban have been killed and wounded in air and ground attacks by security forces in the past two to three days," he added. "In the past 24 hours alone, 200 Taliban have been killed and more than 100 wounded."
ANDSF also retook control of Sayed Karam and Ahmad Abad districts in Paktia province from the Taliban Thursday and Mirzaka district Friday, the Defence Ministry said.
Afghan forces Friday also seized Khenjan and Doshi districts of Baghlan province and Khan Charbagh and Andkhoy districts of Faryab province, the ministry said.
Since early May, the Taliban have launched several major offensives targeting government forces across Afghanistan's countryside and say they have seized almost 90 of the country's more than 400 districts.
Many of their claims are disputed by the government and difficult to independently verify.
Meanwhile, peace talks between the two warring sides remain deadlocked in Qatar.
The Taliban are attacking districts, destroying public infrastructure and looting for propaganda purposes, say observers.
"The Taliban do not have the ability to further advance; the nation is with the security forces," said Nezamuddin Qaisari, the former police chief of Qaisar district in Faryab province. "The public should be assured that the Taliban will be defeated, and the public is ready to fight against the Taliban."
"Unfortunately, the Taliban have destroyed buildings of some districts they had captured" including schools, security posts, bridges and roads, he said.
"The escalation of violence and recent advances by the Taliban are part of the group's psychological warfare and propaganda," said Sikander Asghari, a military analyst in Kabul.
"By doing so, they want to create fear and chaos, and by posting some pictures they want to weaken the morale of the pubic and the resolve of the security forces."
"The Taliban know that they cannot take power militarily; their recent advances are only for publicity," he said. "They attack a district, take some weapons and ammunition, and flee after looting and destroying [properties], or they are pushed back by the security forces."
"Taliban fighters cannot maintain control over a district even for a few days," he said.
The fighting, however, has forced thousands to flee.
About 5,000 families have fled their homes in Kunduz city after days of fighting between the Taliban and government forces, Ghulam Sakhi Rasooli, director of the Kunduz Refugees and Repatriations Department, told AFP Saturday.
Up to 2,000 of those families fled to Kabul and other provinces, he said.
Another 8,000 families have been displaced across the province following a month of sporadic clashes between the insurgents and government forces.
Authorities are working to provide relief items to as many displaced families as possible across the province but are unable to provide relief to all the families, Rasooli said.
Since the fighting erupted more than a week ago, 29 civilians have been killed and 225 wounded, according to Kunduz city public health director Ehsanullah Fazli.
Taliban forced to retreat
"Afghans do not want the Taliban 'emirate' to come to power in Afghanistan again," said Gen. (ret.) Sayed Muhammad Sadat of Kabul. "Therefore, people in different provinces have taken up arms and rose up against the Taliban."
"In addition to Afghans, the international community also will not allow Taliban to achieve victory through war and violence," he said. "The best way is for the Taliban to choose the path of peace while retaining the progress of the past 20 years."
"We thought the Taliban would work with the peace process and not escalate violence, but unfortunately, against its commitments, the group suddenly escalated violence and war," said Abbas Ibrahimzada, a member of the Wolesi Jirga representing Balkh province, who mobilised hundreds of residents against the Taliban.
"Contrary to the expectations of civilians, they committed crimes and destruction," he said.
"Members of the uprising will not allow the Taliban to capture Balkh province," Ibrahimzada said. "We will defend Balkh and other northern provinces alongside our security forces."
"The armed uprising of thousands of Balkh residents against the Taliban prevented the group from advancing towards Mazar-e-Sharif," he said. "This uprising forced the Taliban to retreat from parts of Balkh province."
"The situation is under control, and we have a detailed plan," said Maj. Abdul Munib Mohammadi, commander of the 5th battalion of the Afghan National Army (ANA)'s 217th Pamir Corps. The 217th is based in Kunduz province.
"As a soldier of this republic, I assure the people they can stay in their houses without any concerns," he said. "Your heroes are at your service; they will defend Afghanistan and its people."
"As long as we are alive and have blood in us, we will not allow the enemy to rule the people of Afghanistan," said Col. Khalid Amiri, commander of a special commando unit that manages ANA, police and National Directorate of Security special units in northern Afghanistan.