Taliban fighters on motorbikes roamed a provincial Afghan capital after a day of heavy fighting that saw them storm the city in their most brazen assault since the United States stepped up its troop withdrawal.
The government flew in hundreds of commandos to Qala-i-Naw in Badghis, the first provincial capital to face an all-out assault by the Taliban since May 1 when the insurgents launched a blistering campaign to capture new territory.
With the US troop pullout “90 per cent complete”, according to the Pentagon, fears are mounting that Afghan forces will be stretched without the vital air support of the US military.
Residents in Qala-i-Naw had either fled the city or stayed indoors today after more than 24 hours of intense fighting that saw the Afghan air force launch strikes on Taliban positions.
Many of the city’s 75,000 people had fled their homes, either to neighbouring districts or to Herat.
Yesterday, the Taliban briefly seized the police headquarters and the local office of the country’s spy agency but were later pushed back.
Overnight, the defence ministry said it rushed hundreds of commandos to the city to launch a large-scale operation, spokesman Fawad Aman said on Twitter.
The attack on Qala-i-Naw comes as the Taliban carry out a blistering campaign across the country but mostly in the north, capturing dozens of districts since early May.
The fighting appeared to be spreading in neighbouring Herat province where officials acknowledged losing two districts to the insurgents.