Taliban forces are converging on the capital of Uruzgan province, the city of Tarin Kot. Uruzgan is a central province of Afghanistan.
A report from Reuters claimed that the Taliban were within a few kilometers of Tarin Kot . Officials warned that it would collapse unless there was air support and ground reinforcement. A more recent report from the New York TImes indicates the Taliban had advanced further. Dost Mohammad Nayab, a spokesperson for the governor of Uruzgan said that all security posts around the city had been taken over by the Taliban and they had begun firing on the police headquarters and government compound. However, he also said that 200 Afghan commandos arrived late on Wednesday, but so far there had been no air support from NATO. A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, Sediq Sediqqi, said that special forces from an elite task force in Kandahar had reached the capital by Thursday morning. Presumably these are the commandos mentioned earlier.
Abdul Khadimzai of the provincial council said the city was under lockdown, with only security forces on the streets. He also said that the police chief and other officials had sought shelter at the airport. However, Gen Wais Samimi, the police chief said he was sill at headquarters. Khadimzai, said the Taliban had issued warnings that they would be entering the city.
Uruzgan officials and Mr. Khadimzai blamed the police for abandoning 20 checkpoints without a fight overnight. Military officials in Kabul fear there was a conspiracy.Mr. Nayab said: “The whereabouts of the police are not known, whether they have joined the Taliban or escaped somewhere. We are busy now with making plans to defeat the enemy but will need to investigate what made them leave the posts without fighting.”
There are conflicting statements from the two sides. A Taliban commander Mullah Hameedi claimed that they had taken control of the central prison only to find that inmates had been taken to the airport. However, Sediqqi of the Interior Ministry claimed that a Taliban attack on the prison had been repelled.
By late Thursday afternoon Nayab said the situation was improving as NATO airstrikes between hitting Taliban positions. Also, General Abdul Raziq the powerful police chief from neighboring Kandahar province had arrived with reinforcements. Tarin Kot is said to have about 70,000 inhabitants.
Barack Obama has always vowed to end the Afghan war, but the White House recently announced that the U.S. role in the 15-year conflict will expand.
Josh Earnest, press secretary to President Obama, said that US forces would be playing a greater role in helping Afghan troops be more effective on the battlefield. He said the new support would come as "advice and assistance" as well as "occasionally accompanying them in their operations".
The Afghan forces are having difficulty containing the Taliban who are carrying out numerous attacks including on the capital of Kabul. Obama denied that Obama was restarting the combat role of the US that ended in 2014. Nevertheless, at least 9,800 US forces still remain in the country in an advisory role since 2015. They were only authorized to target Taliban in defense, or to protect Afghan troops. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said that the new order was issued to General Sean MacFarland, who is the US commander in Afghanistan.
Rosalind Jordan of Al Jazeera said the US defense department had been wanting to carry out the extended mission for months: "The concern about the resurgence of the Taliban has been growing in the Pentagon." The new plan will also include "strategic strikes" she claimed to weaken the Taliban.
The US does not want to see the Afghan military "be caught short" as the summer fighting season enters high gear. At its peak in March 2011, the US had around 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. More than 2,000 soldiers were killed. However, just last year, the Afghans lost 5,000 troops causing Obama to postpone any further withdrawal of troops.
Earnest said that in addition to an increase in air strikes, restrictions would be loosened on what ground troops could do. He said special forces would be more proactive and even engage in occasional combat operations alongside Afghan forces. Lt. Gen. John Nicholson wants to ramp operations back up as the Taliban seize more territory. It is reported that Nicholson wants to keep about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan until at least the end of the year. They could stay even longer.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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