Taliban takes key district in northern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 15 (UPI) — Taliban fighters captured an important district in northern Afghanistan after several days of clashes with Afghan security forces.

The Dahana-i-Ghori district in Baghlan province, about 100 miles north of Kabul, is under Taliban control, Mahmood Haqmal, a spokesman for the province, told Bloomberg News. on Monday. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed also confirmed the takeover.

“The territorial gains by the Taliban are sending serious alarming bells to the government and even to the United States,” said Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based independent security analyst and a former army official. “The condition in the country is already fragile and now Taliban are trying to use this opportunity to gain territory.”

Haqmal said Afghan government forces had retreated from Dahana-i-Ghori.

On Friday, the Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the area.

Amir Gul Hussainkhil, deputy police chief of Baghlan, told Al-Jazeera the Dahana-i-Ghori district was seized by the Taliban because several dozen Afghan forces made “a tactical retreat.”

The area is vital because it’s where the main highway links Kabul to the nine other provinces in the north and northeast.

In Kabul, three people, including an Afghan solider, were injured in a car bombing near the U.S. embassy, Basir Mujahed, a police spokesman, told Bloomberg. On Aug. 1, the capital was hit by an explosion at the city’s Northgate Hotel, where international contractors stay.

In southern Helmand province, the capital Lashkar Gah is under siege and surrounded by Taliban fighters, Omar Zowak, a local government spokesman said.

On Friday, humanitarian agency Medecin San Frontieres, which runs a 300-bed hospital in Lashkar Gah, said injured people can’t reach its facility because of increasing violence and blocked roads.

Insurgents control at least 36 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts and another 104 are at risk of capture, according to a report last month by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Those districts are mainly in remote southern regions.

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