Tal­iban over­runs parts of Afghan city of Farah

Ma­jor of­fen­sive re­port­edly re­pelled by Afghan sol­diers

Albuquerque Journal - - WORLD & NATION - THE WASH­ING­TON POST

KABUL, Afghanistan — Tal­iban fight­ers over­ran parts of west­ern Farah city early Tues­day but were re­port­edly re­pelled by late evening as Afghan ground troops and re­in­force­ments, backed by U.S. and Afghan airstrikes, fought for hours to pre­vent the in­sur­gents from cap­tur­ing a se­cond city since they were driven from power in 2001.

Res­i­dents hid from ex­plo­sions and gun­fire, some gov­ern­ment build­ings were seized, and the pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor fled the city dur­ing the day, Afghan me­dia and lo­cal of­fi­cials re­ported. A spokesman for the Tal­iban said in an on­line mes­sage that the in­sur­gents had taken most of the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal. The group also posted images on so­cial me­dia that seemed to show them in­side the city.

But as the hours passed, res­i­dents and of­fi­cials told news agen­cies by phone that lo­cal se­cu­rity forces were still in con­trol of po­lice head­quar­ters and the na­tional in­tel­li­gence agency fa­cil­ity.

By late evening, Afghan of­fi­cials said the in­sur­gents were con­fined to iso­lated pock­ets. Some were said to be hid­ing in lo­cal homes, mak­ing it harder to flush them out. Of­fi­cials re­ported a small num­ber of ca­su­al­ties dur­ing the day, and there was no of­fi­cial up­date by evening.

Farah has only about 50,000 res­i­dents, and the sur­round­ing prov­ince, also called Farah, is a re­mote and poor ru­ral re­gion known mostly for grow­ing opium pop­pies. But if the city were to fall to the Tal­iban, even briefly, it would give the in­sur­gents a ma­jor psy­cho­log­i­cal vic­tory.

The Tal­iban re­cently an­nounced that it was launch­ing a new spring of­fen­sive, shortly af­ter Afghan of­fi­cials of­fered to restart peace talks, and the at­tack on Farah was its most am­bi­tious as­sault since then in ru­ral ar­eas of the coun­try. Both the Tal­iban and Is­lamic State forces have staged shoot­ing and sui­cide bomb­ing at­tacks in Kabul and sev­eral other ci­ties.

Only one city, Kun­duz in the north, has pre­vi­ously fallen to the Tal­iban. The in­sur­gents cap­tured it in 2015 and again in 2016.

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