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Afghanistan installs anti-missile system at Kabul airport to counter Taliban rockets

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)
In this file photo taken on May 08, 2018, people arrive at the domestic terminal of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. (Photo by AFP)

The Afghan government says it has installed an anti-missile system at Kabul airport to counter possible rocket attacks by militants, as the Taliban claim to control 85 percent of the country.

"The newly installed air defense system has been operational in Kabul since 2:00 am Sunday," the Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement, adding, "The system has proven useful in the world in repelling rocket and missile attacks."

Ajmal Omar Shinwari, a spokesman for Afghan security forces said the system was given 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.

Since the US started the formal withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, in May — with a delay in a deadline agreed with the Taliban — the militants have intensified attacks across the country.

The Taliban say they now hold 85 percent of Afghanistan, controlling about 250 of the country's nearly 400 districts.

In recent weeks, the Taliban's rapid gains have raised fears about the security of the capital and its airport, a vital exit route to the outside world for foreign diplomats and aid workers.

Turkey has promised to secure Kabul airport once United States and NATO troops leave next month. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said Turkey and the US had agreed on the "scope" of how the airport would be managed under the control of Turkish forces.

India pulls diplomats, staff from Kandahar consulate

In a separate development on Sunday, India announced that it had evacuated around 50 Indian personnel, including around six diplomats,  from its consulate in southern Kandahar, where the Taliban militants are fighting with Afghan forces on the edge of the city.

"The Consulate General of India has not been closed. However, due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India based personnel have been brought back for the time being," India's Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

"This is purely a temporary measure until the situation stabilizes. The consulate continues to operate through our local staff members."

Last week Russia announced it had closed its consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, while China also evacuated 210 nationals from the country.

Earlier this week, Russia criticized the US and its NATO allies for having failed to stabilize the country after two decades of war and occupation.

“They were unable to achieve visible results when it comes to stabilizing the situation during the decades they spent there,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

This has also prompted China, another neighbor, to accuse Washington of conducting a hasty and chaotic withdrawal, after almost 20 years of war in the county.

“The US disregards its responsibilities and duties and withdraws troops from Afghanistan hastily, dumping the mess and war on the Afghan people and countries in the region," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a briefing on Friday.

The US military has said it had withdrawn more than 90 percent of its troops and equipment from Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has also flown an equivalent of approximately 980 loads of material out of the country by large cargo aircraft.

About 650 American troops are likely to stay in Afghanistan to provide security at the US Embassy after US forces leave the country.

US President Joe Biden has said the American troop pullout will conclude on August 31 after nearly 20 years of war on Afghanistan, ahead of the September 11 deadline.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 under the pretext of the so-called war on terror. The invasion removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity and violence persist to this day.

Washington has spent trillions of dollars on the war, which has left hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians dead.

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