Monday December 06, 2021

Taliban capture Afghanistan’s main Tajikistan border crossing

June 23, 2021
Taliban capture Afghanistan’s main Tajikistan border crossing

KUNDUZ: The Taliban captured Afghanistan´s main border crossing with Tajikistan Tuesday, officials said, with security forces abandoning their posts and some fleeing across the frontier.The taking of the far north Shir Khan Bandar, about 50 kilometres from Kunduz city, is the most significant gain for the Taliban since the US began the final stage of its troop withdrawal in May, with peace talks between the insurgents and Kabul deadlocked.

"Unfortunately this morning, and after an hour of fighting, the Taliban captured Shir Khan port and the town and all the border check posts with Tajikistan," Kunduz provincial council member Khaliddin Hakmi told AFP.

Separately, an army officer said: "We were forced to leave all check posts... and some of our soldiers crossed the border into Tajikistan. “By the morning, they (Taliban fighters) were everywhere; hundreds of them,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the insurgents had seized the border post, on the south bank of the Pyanj River. "Our Mujahideen are in full control of Shir Khan Bandar and all the border crossings with Tajikistan in Kunduz," he told AFP.

Since early May, the Taliban have launched major offensives targeting government forces across the rugged countryside, and claim to have seized at least 87 of the country´s 421 districts. Many of their claims are disputed by the government, and independent verification is difficult -- especially in areas that frequently change hands.

Shir Khan Bandar is marked by a 700-metre US-funded bridge that opened to great fanfare in 2007 with the aim of boosting trade between the Central Asian neighbours. It is a sprawling dry port capable of handling up to 1,000 vehicles a day.

"There were 150 trucks loaded with goods in Shir Khan Bandar when it fell and we don´t know what´s happened to them," said Massoud Wahdat, a spokesman for the Kunduz provincial

chamber of commerce and industries. "It would be a huge financial loss."

Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations Afghanistan aid operation expressed strong concerns over military gains by the Taliban insurgents as US and coalition forces pull out of the country.

"All of the major trends -- politics, security, the peace process, the economy, the humanitarian emergency, and Covid -- all of these trends are negative or stagnant," Deborah Lyons told the UN Security Council in a video conference.

"The Taliban´s recent advances are even more significant and are a result of an intensified military campaign," said Lyons, who leads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. "For the Taliban to continue this intensive military campaign would be a tragic course of action," she said.

She said the Islamist insurgents have seized more that 50 of the country´s 370 districts, mostly districts which surround provincial capitals. That, Lyons said, suggests the Taliban "are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn."