GHAZNI, Afghanistan, Oct. 13 (UPI) — Taliban forces on Tuesday said they were withdrawing from the recently-captured northern city of Kunduz — one day after committing to a fresh offensive on Ghazni, in Afghanistan’s east.
Xinhua news agency quoted Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid as confirming the retreat from Kunduz, which fell to the insurgents late last month, prompting a NATO-supported Afghan military counter-attack.
However, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, deputy to the governor of Ghazni province, told reporters Tuesday “2,000 Taliban insurgents launched a massive offensive on Monday to overrun Ghazni city.”
He added that security forces were able to repulse the attack after killing 20 Taliban on Monday and 96 others since then, and he refuted claims by the militants that they had killed six soldiers and destroyed two battle tanks.
The militant retreat from Kunduz comes after Afghan forces were reported last week to have recaptured a strategic road leading south toward Kabul, enabling convoys to bring reinforcements and supplies to government forces in the city.
The rapid seizure of Kunduz in September represented the most significant urban victory for the Taliban since their fall from power in 2001, and the new offensive in Ghazni joins a series of assaults outside of the insurgents’ typical rural strongholds in the south.
The Guardian reports security forces repelled an attempt by the Taliban last week to overrun Maimana, the capital of Faryab province.
The Taliban traditionally increase the frequency and intensity of their operations during the spring and summer fighting seasons, but attacks against military and police in the county have increased since NATO handed the combat mission to Afghan forces last year.
Afghanistan’s interior ministry on Monday said security forces killed up to 68 armed insurgents over the prior 24 hours during operations in the Nangarhar, Laghman, Kapisa, Takhar, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Kandahar, Zabul, Oruzgan, Khost, Paktiya, Farah, Badghis and Helmand provinces.
On Sunday five NATO troops — two British, two American and one French — died after their helicopter crashed in Kabul under non-hostile conditions.
The incident coincided with a bomb attack against a NATO convoy in the capital that injured at least seven people. The Taliban said the attack was retaliation for an Oct. 3 U.S. airstrike in Kunduz that killed 22 doctors and civilians.