They urge residents to reach out to them; warn Turkey against extending troop presence in Afghanistan
The Taliban do not want to battle government forces inside Afghanistan’s cities and would rather see them surrender, a senior insurgent leader said on Tuesday, as the militants also warned Turkey against extending its troop presence.
The hardline Islamist group has swept through much of the north as foreign troops complete their withdrawal, and the government now holds little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that must largely be resupplied by air.
On Tuesday, the head of a Taliban commission that oversees government forces who surrender urged residents of Afghanistan’s cities to reach out to them.
“Now that the fighting from mountains and deserts has reached the doors of the cities, Mujahiddin (Taliban) don’t want fighting inside the city,” Amir Khan Muttaqi said in a message tweeted by a Taliban spokesman.
“It is better… to use any possible channel to get in touch with our invitation and guidance commission,” he said, adding this would “prevent their cities from getting damaged”.
The strategy is one well-worn by the Taliban — particularly during their first rise to power in the 1990s — cutting off towns and district centres and getting elders to negotiate a surrender.
Hours after Muttaqi’s message, a rush hour blast in the centre of the Afghan capital killed four civilians and wounded five others, the police said.
“The explosion occurred in the centre of Kabul,” police spokesman Ferdaws Faramurz told reporters, without specifying what caused it.
Muttaqi’s comments came as the Defence Ministry said Afghan forces had cleared Qala-i-Naw city after days of fighting.
The Badghis province capital saw sustained street fighting last week in the first assault by the Taliban on a major urban centre since foreign troops commenced their final withdrawal in May.
The call also came the same day as a video emerged that CNN said it had verified showing a group of Afghan commandos being gunned down by the Taliban in June after surrendering.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, the Taliban said Turkey’s decision to provide security to Kabul airport when U.S.-led forces leave was “reprehensible”.
“We consider stay of foreign forces in our homeland by any country under whatever pretext as occupation,” the group said, days after Ankara agreed with Washington to provide security for Kabul airport.
As foreign forces wind up their withdrawal — due to be completed by August 31 — the situation on the ground is changing rapidly.
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