Taliban fighters have invaded the city of Kunduz once again, according to multiple online sources. Just over one year ago, in late September 2015, the Taliban seized Kunduz and briefly held it before being driven back. But the Taliban has retained a presence in the surrounding areas ever since and launched another assault on the center of Kunduz earlier today.
The Taliban’s push into Kunduz was first trumpeted on a Twitter account attributed to the group’s spokesman, Zabihulla Mujahid. Some of the tweets can be seen below.
The propaganda feed reported that Police District #2 (“PD2”) and a recruiting center for Afghan forces were “overrun” during the offensive. The Taliban’s fighters then moved into the city’s “main intersection” while also attacking the governor’s compound and a police headquarters. A short video shows a jihadist hoisting the Taliban’s white flag above a small building in the city’s “main” traffic intersection. A screen shot from the video can be seen above.
In still other tweets, “Zabihulla Mujahid” claimed that the Taliban is firmly in control. One tweet read: “Efforts underway to quickly establish normalcy in #Kunduz so people restart work, Mujahidin are treating people with kindness.”
The Taliban’s push into Kunduz was quickly confirmed by independent sources. For example, a reporter for TOLONews said that an office belonging to Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Kunduz is now “under Taliban control.” Citing the Kunduz provincial council, TOLONews also reported that the Taliban was “moving towards the governor’s office.”
NATO’s Resolute Support initially downplayed reports of the Taliban’s assault on Kunduz. “We are aware of reports of ongoing sporadic fighting in Kunduz & are coordinating closely with our Afghan partners to assist,” one tweet on Resolute Support’s official feed read. Another tweet continued: “At this point, we are not observing evidence via our internal means to support the reports that Kunduz is under significant attack.” And in a third, Resolute Support said that its forces would “continue to support ANDSF through training, advising & assisting as well as strategic enabler support.”
But just two hours later Resolute Support tweeted: “(Update) U.S. enablers, including air power, are in position and prepared to assist in Kunduz as needed.” And a subsequent tweet read: “Our #AFG partners are responding to increased Taliban activity in #Kunduz & US forces have multiple assets & enablers within area to support.”
It remains to be seen if the Taliban can maintain its presence inside the city’s center this time. Last year, the Taliban was ejected from Kunduz after approximately two weeks. Still, the temporary fall of Kunduz in 2015 was an ominous sign, as it was the first major urban area to be recaptured by the Taliban since 2001.
The Taliban has relied on its al Qaeda-linked jihadi allies during the fighting in Kunduz. Last year, for example, the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) participated in the siege of the city. The IJU is an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. However, the IJU remains loyal to the Taliban’s senior leader. [See LWJ report, Islamic Jihad Union participated in siege of Kunduz.]
Still other jihadist groups that recruit from central Asia have likely bolstered the Taliban’s ranks in Kunduz as well.
Tweets attributed to Taliban spokesman “Zabihulla Mujahid”:
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