Afghan fighting rages on as US, Britain accuse Taliban of slaughtering civilians
Afghan forces fought Monday August 2 to prevent a first major city from falling to the Taliban as the United States and Britain accused insurgents of slaughtering civilians in a city they recently captured near the Pakistani border.
Taliban fighters attacked at least three provincial capitals overnight – Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Herat – after a weekend of intense fighting that saw thousands of civilians flee advancing militants.
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Fighting raged in Helmand’s provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, where the Taliban launched coordinated attacks on the city center and its prison – just hours after the government announced the deployment of hundreds of commandos to the area .
The war has intensified since early May, with insurgents taking advantage of the final stages of the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces after nearly 20 years.
President Ashraf Ghani blamed Washington for the deterioration in security.
“The reason for our current situation is that the decision was taken abruptly,” Ghani told parliament, referring to the withdrawal of foreign forces.
Mr. Ghani said he warned Washington that the withdrawal would have “consequences”.
His comments came as Washington said that in light of the increased violence it would welcome thousands more Afghan refugees, including those who have worked with the United States.
Washington has already started evacuating thousands of interpreters and their families who have worked with the United States military and embassy over the past two decades.
“Disturbing and unacceptable”
The United States and Britain on Monday accused the Taliban of atrocities that may constitute “war crimes” in the town of Spin Boldak, which insurgents captured along the border with Pakistan last month.
The diplomatic whip comes after the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said insurgents had engaged in revenge killings in Spin Boldak.
“The Taliban have hunted down and identified government officials past and present and killed those people who had no fighting role in the conflict,” the group said, adding that at least 40 people had been killed by the Taliban.
“These murders could constitute war crimes,” the Washington and London embassies said in separate tweets.
Taliban leaders must be held accountable, they said, adding, “If you can’t control your fighters now, you won’t have to worry about governance later.
Senior US diplomat Antony Blinken also criticized the militant leaders, saying the reports were “deeply disturbing and totally unacceptable”.
An Afghanistan without a democratic and inclusive government would be a “pariah state,” he said, adding that the international recognition the group wants will not be possible if it “seeks to take the country by force and commits the genre. atrocities that have been reported. “.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Taliban attacks showed “little respect for human life.” “If the Taliban leadership really supports a negotiated solution to this conflict, as they say … they must stop these horrific attacks,” he said.
“Many are suffering”
Meanwhile, fighting continued in Lashkar Gah overnight as Afghan forces repelled yet another Taliban assault.
Resident Hawa Malalai warned of a growing crisis in the southern city: “There is fighting, power cuts, patients in hospital, telecommunications networks are down. There are no drugs and pharmacies are closed.
Doctors Without Borders, a medical charity, said the number of victims was increasing in Lashkar Gah.
“There has been relentless fire, airstrikes and mortars in the densely populated areas. Houses are being bombed and many people are seriously injured,” said Sarah Leahy, coordinator of the aid group for the project. the Helmand.
Helmand was for years the centerpiece of the American and British military campaign in Afghanistan. The province’s vast poppy fields provide opium for the international heroin trade, a lucrative source of money for the Taliban.
Losing Lashkar Gah would be a massive strategic and psychological blow to the government, which has vowed to defend cities at all costs after losing much of the rural countryside to the Taliban over the summer.
Fighting also broke out in parts of Kandahar province, a former insurgent stronghold, and around its capital.
In the west, hundreds of commandos were also defending Herat after days of fierce fighting.
“If Afghan cities fall (…) the American decision to withdraw from Afghanistan will be remembered as one of the most notable strategic blunders in American foreign policy,” told Agence France-Presse Nishank Motwani, Australian expert on Afghanistan.