Security

Afghan forces repel Taliban attack near Herat city, kill 40 militants

By Salaam Times and AFP

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A member of the public uprising forces monitors the area for Taliban insurgents on the outskirts of Herat city July 30. [Herat provincial media office]

HERAT -- Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) on Thursday (July 29) repelled a Taliban attack on the outskirts of Herat city, officials said, underscoring the group's lies about refusing to target cities.

The Taliban have recently seized several districts around the city and two border crossings in the province along the frontiers with Iran and Turkmenistan as they continued with their deadly assaults.

Violence has surged across the country since the insurgents launched attacks in early May, soon after the US-led NATO foreign forces began their final withdrawal, which is now almost complete.

"The Taliban fighters launched attacks near Herat city in the district of Guzara last night," Jilani Farhad, spokesman for Herat's provincial governor, said.

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The US flag is reflected on the windows of the US embassy building in Kabul on July 30. [Sajjad Hussain/AFP]

"Fortunately, their attack was repelled by Afghan security forces, but unfortunately, four members of Afghan security forces were killed."

Sporadic fighting has continued in the district, Farhad said, adding that up to 40 Taliban fighters had been killed.

ANDSF and militiamen of veteran Afghan warlord and anti-Taliban commander Ismail Khan were deployed around the city of about 600,000 inhabitants, an AFP correspondent reported.

Taliban violence surging

The Taliban have doubled their attacks in Afghanistan after signing a peace deal with US negotiators in February 2020 that aimed to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks, a watchdog report said Thursday.

Taliban attacks on Afghan targets surged from 6,700 in the three months prior to the Doha agreement to 13,242 in the 90-day period of September to November 2020.

Attacks have stayed above 10,000 in each subsequent three-month period, according to the report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Over January-March of 2020, there were 510 civilian deaths and 709 casualties, the report said, quoting data from the US-NATO joint force in Afghanistan.

After that, the numbers surged to 1,058 deaths and 1,959 wounded in the third quarter of last year, and continued to increase.

The latest data for April and May this year showed 705 civilian deaths and 1,330 casualties, the SIGAR report said.

Helping Afghan friends

As the Taliban's violence surges, the US government has started evacuating Afghans who worked as interpreters for the US military and diplomatic mission. The interpreters are at risk of Taliban retaliation.

The first flight carrying Afghan interpreters has arrived in America, US President Joe Biden said Friday.

"We continue to fulfil our promise to the thousands of Afghan nationals who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

About 20,000 Afghans worked for the US government following the 2001 US-led ouster of the Taliban, and have applied for evacuation under the State Department's Special Immigrant Visas programme.

The first arrivals -- numbering about 200 -- will complete health checks and other processing before being sent to new homes across the country, said Russ Travers, a White House National Security Council official.

More than 70,000 Afghans have received Special Immigrant Visas and have relocated to the United States since 2008, Travers said.

"We absolutely intend to continue this programme after the pullout of troops" on August 31, said Tracey Jacobson of the State Department Afghanistan Task Force.

The US Congress on Thursday unanimously passed a measure that provides $1.1 billion to fund the resettlement of Afghans who supported the US mission in Afghanistan.

It is expected to receive Biden's signature.

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