Afghanistan watchers will recall that the Taliban briefly held the city of Kunduz last year. Now they’re trying to take it again, the FT reports:
Fighters attacked the strategically important city from four directions at about midnight on Sunday, according to local police.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, tweeted at the time: “A massive operation started on Kunduz capital from four directions early this morning.”
By Monday afternoon, there were conflicting reports as to the status of the attack.
Mahmood Danish, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said Afghan forces had repelled the attack, but Sheer Ali Kamawal, commander of the 808 Tandar police zone in Kunduz, told reporters fighting was going on in and around the city.
Mahfozullah Akbari, a police spokesman in Kunduz, said security forces were preparing to drive out the fighters, who had infiltrated the Khak Kani area in the city’s south-west. “The Taliban are inside some civilian houses and we have to carry out operations very carefully,” he said.
The United States has stepped up its presence in Afghanistan a bit since President Obama admitted that troops will not be out of the country by the time he leaves office. But the U.S. goal is still more limited than it was both when President Bush launched the invasion and when President Obama doubled down on it in the beginning of his presidency. In both cases, there was some talk of stabilizing the country, holding elections, building schools, and the like. While one continues to hear occasional talk about such things these days, the U.S. mission is mostly limited to counterterrorism operations. Today, a U.S. serviceman died in an attack targeting ISIS near the Pakistani border.
Counterterrorism has always been America’s primary interest in Afghanistan. The problem—the worry—is that if the Taliban gain, it could be more difficult to the U.S. to conduct operations against ISIS and Al Qaeda targets. Last time Kunduz was taken, the U.S. had to give the government a big assist in order to push the Taliban back out. The extent to which the United States has to get involved this time around might give us insight as to what difference a year has made, if any.