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Afghan forces attack Taliban, retake towns as top leaders plan US visit

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Afghan National Army commandos arrest men pretending to be Taliban militants during a military exercise at the Kabul Military Training Center on the outskirts of Kabul. (Photo by AFP)

Afghan government forces have retaken territories captured by the Taliban in the northern parts of the war-torn country as the nation’s top leaders are set to travel to Washington for talks with US officials.

In an operation by “government and public uprising forces,” Bangi and Khwaja Ghar districts in the northern Takhar province were recaptured from Taliban militants, Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry announced in a statement on Monday.

“The districts were cleared of Taliban this morning,” said the official statement, pointing out that the operation was launched late Sunday night with aerial support from the country’s Air Force. “The Taliban escaped from the district after suffering heavy casualties.”

According to the statement, villages of Abdal and Qara Parcho located on the outskirts of the provincial capital city of Taluqan were also cleared of the Taliban militants. The group has not yet reacted to reports of the encounter.

This is while the provincial police in the northern province of Faryab further announced on Monday that reinforcements had arrived in the area earlier in the day to prepare for operations to recapture territories that have fallen to the Taliban.

The security forces have mobilized and will launch the operation soon, said Faryab police spokesman Abdul Hakim Yurish as cited in local press reports, which noted that clashes on Sunday inched closer to the city of Maimana in central Faryab.

According to Yurish, “four Taliban were killed and 11 more were wounded in a clash in Pashtun Kot district of Faryab.” He added that seven more Taliban militants were also killed by Afghan forces in Sabz Village in Pashtun Kot district and that the nearby Dahan Dara village was also cleared of Taliban members.

Moreover, a statement by Afghan Army's 209 Shaheen Corps declared that the Taliban’s gathering centers had been targeted by airstrikes in Dawlat Abad and Chahar Bolak districts in northern Balkh province on Sunday in which 31 members of the group were killed and seven more wounded.

The Taliban also issued a statement and claimed that they had captured the center of Dawlat Abad and Shulgara district in Balkh, though local officials have not yet confirmed the claim.

According to local press reports, amid continued clashes in the center of Faryab, the centers of 11 districts were also captured by the Taliban on Sunday.

Faryab lawmakers were cited in local press reports as saying the province needed urgent help to deter Taliban attacks.

The development came as Afghanistan’s newly appointed Acting Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi called on the people to stand with security forces and pledged that the government will provide facilities and equipment.

Top Afghan leaders due in Washington for talks

Meanwhile, the White House issued a statement on Sunday announcing that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman Abdullah Abdullah will visit Washington on Friday for talks with US officials.

“President Biden looks forward to welcoming Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, to the White House on June 25, 2021,” said the statement without elaborating on the agenda of the visit. 

The statement further claimed that the US will remain "deeply engaged" with the government of Afghanistan to ensure the country never again becomes a "safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the US homeland."

The development comes as US-led foreign forces have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan amid surging violence on multiple fronts across the country.

US leaving Afghanistan in ‘total disgrace’

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai emphasized in an interview Sunday that the US came to Afghanistan to fight extremism and bring stability and is now leaving nearly 20 years later having failed at both. 

“The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear objective of fighting extremism and bringing stability ... but extremism is at the highest point today. So, they have failed,” he said during an interview with AP.

“We recognize as Afghans all our failures, but what about the bigger forces and powers who came here for exactly that purpose? Where are they leaving us now?” he asked and answered, “In total disgrace and disaster.” 

“We will be better off without their military presence,” Karzai further emphasized. “I think we should defend our own country and look after our own lives. ... Their presence (has given us) what we have now. ... We don’t want to continue with this misery and indignity that we are facing. It is better for Afghanistan that they leave.” 

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