Security

Afghan forces install anti-missile system at Kabul airport

By Salaam Times and AFP

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Cyclists peddle past a mural painted on a wall along a road in Kabul on July 11. The text on the wall reads, 'The Taliban are murderers'. [Sajjad Hussain/AFP]

KABUL -- Afghan offcials Sunday (July 11) said they had installed an anti-missile system at Kabul airport to counter potential incoming rockets from the Taliban, the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and other terrorist groups.

The Taliban have regularly launched rockets and mortars at government forces across the countryside, with ISIS carrying out similar strikes on the capital in 2020.

ISIS also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack this year at Bagram Air Base, the biggest US military facility in the country, which was recently handed over to Afghan forces.

"The newly installed air defence system has been operational in Kabul since 2am Sunday," the Interior Affairs Ministry said in a statement. "The system has proven useful in the world in repelling rocket and missile attacks."

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Afghan militiamen gather in Afghan warlord and former mujahideen leader Ismail Khan's house in Herat on July 9 with their weapons to support Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) against the Taliban. [Hoshang Hashimi/AFP]

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Afghan security personnel stand guard along a road during fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban militants in Kandahar on July 9. [Javed Tanveer/AFP]

Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed it had been installed at the airport.

Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) spokesman Ajmal Omar Shinwari said the system was provided by "our foreign friends".

"It has very complicated technology. For now our foreign friends are operating it while we are trying to build the capacity to use it," he said, adding that in the past week 1,177 Taliban fighters were killed in fighting with government forces.

Taliban have 'no organised capacity'

Over the years, the US military installed several C-RAMs (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar Systems) across its bases, including at Bagram, to destroy incoming rockets targeting the facilities, according to a foreign security official and media reports.

The C-RAMs include cameras to detect incoming rockets and alert local forces.

"The Taliban do not have any organised capacity but have demonstrated that they can fire modified rockets from vehicles and create panic, especially if aimed at an airport," a foreign security official told AFP.

Turkey has promised to provide security for Kabul airport after the departure of US and NATO troops next month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday said Turkey and the United States had agreed on the "scope" of how to manage the airport under the control of Turkish forces.

Since early May, Taliban militants have waged a rapid offensive across the country but mostly in the northern and western provinces, yet the Afghan government has repeatedly dismissed the Taliban's gains as having little strategic value.

Defending Afghanistan

The ANDSF have launched operations to secure provincial capitals and take back territory overrun by the militants.

Afghan commandos clashed with the insurgents last week in Qala-e-Naw, capital of Badghis province, where Taliban violence forced thousands of inhabitants to flee their homes.

Kabul has called on militiamen across the country to help counter attacks.

On Friday, veteran Afghan warlord Ismail Khan, 75, whose militia helped US forces topple the Taliban in 2001, vowed to again take up arms as the insurgents closed in on Herat.

Hundreds of Khan's militiamen deployed across the city of Herat and manned its gates, an AFP correspondent reported.

"We are defending Herat ... especially since the Taliban intend to attack Herat," said fighter Basir Ahmad. "We will defend the city and its people until the last drop of our blood."

"We have deployed our forces to support this system and the people," said Maroof Gholami, a commander of Khan's militia.

ANDSF spokesman Shinwari on Sunday urged Afghan youths to join the armed forces -- saying the authorities had streamlined recruitment procedures.

Push for peace

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin called Friday for international pressure to force a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban to end the current conflict.

"The security situation in Afghanistan only argues more for international pressure to have a negotiated political settlement to end this conflict, and give the Afghan people [the] government they want and they deserve," Austin said in a tweet.

"The entire world can help by continuing this push."

Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan on Saturday called on the international community to help strengthen Afghanistan's security forces to prevent insurgent groups from taking root.

"If the situation continues to worsen and deteriorate in Afghanistan, of course, there will be challenges in terms of security inside of Afghanistan," Khan told AFP, saying it could give "space" to groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda.

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