Afghan government forces plan to stage a massive counterattack to fend off a Taliban offensive in the north, which has seen dozens of districts falling to the militants, a senior Afghan presidential advisor has said.
The government forces are “absolutely” planning a counterattack, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said on Monday in an interview with Russian Sputnik News during a visit to Moscow.
“The Taliban used the vacuum in which the Americans and other international troops were retrograding and launched an unannounced offensive. And that took many of the Afghan security forces by surprise. Because like I said, we were expecting peace, not war,” he emphasized.
"We, unfortunately, have not seen enthusiasm or good faith efforts from the Taliban for [the US-initiated] peace talks so far", Mohib further underlined, insisting that Kabul is struggling to see a positive response from the Taliban militants.
However, the people of Afghanistan are “determined” and want to “live in freedom,” he added. “We want to see Taliban included in the government and be represented, but Afghans are not ready to have Taliban dominate all of Afghanistan and dictate the way Afghan people must live.”
“The Afghan national defense and security forces along with the people who have come to support them are working to manage the security situation there,” added the advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
More than 1,000 Afghan troops flee Taliban into Tajikistan
The development came amid reports that more than 1,000 Afghan troops fled into neighboring Tajikistan in the early hours of Monday following skirmishes with Taliban insurgents.
Citing Tajikistan's national security committee, press reports said on Monday that 1,037 Afghan government forces had fled into the Central Asian country "in order to save their lives" after overnight clashes with Taliban militants.
"Taking into account the principle of good neighborliness and adhering to the position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, the military personnel of the Afghan government forces were allowed to enter Tajik territory," the committee said in a statement published by state news agency Khovar.
Taliban have launched several major offensives in northern Afghanistan in recent weeks as US and international troops withdraw from the country. The Taliban seized Afghanistan’s main crossing into Tajikistan last month.
The militants have taken "full control" of six districts in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province bordering Tajikistan, the committee said.
Hundreds of Afghan government forces had already crossed into Tajikistan after the Taliban unleashed their new wave of attacks in early May, following reports that US-led forces were planning to leave Afghanistan 20 years after the invasion.
Kabul-Moscow security cooperation
Mohib arrived in Russia last week for talks with the head of Russia’s national security committee, Nikolai Patrushev, to discuss the Afghan “peace process” as well as bilateral cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the two nations.
“We have access to information from some of those that we have captured, intelligence about what their activities are and where their intentions are. That, I think, could be important information for Russia and Central Asia to align itself [sic] about what threats are faced,” he said.
Mohib added that Afghanistan would expect to have access to the same level of information collected by Russia on extremist groups operating in Central Asia, noting that Kabul saw little difference between the Taliban and the Daesh terrorists.
“Reciprocally, I think, we can expect the same level of information from Russia about what it sees and the intelligence it receives on these groups,” he said.
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