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Taliban Take Key District In Northern Afghanistan, Encircle Provincial Capital


Afghan security personnel patrol in the Imam Sahib district of the Kunduz Province (file photo)

Taliban fighters overran a key district in Afghanistan's northern province of Kunduz on June 21 and surrounded the provincial capital, police said.

Fighting around Imam Sahib district began late on June 20 and by noon on June 21 the militants had overrun the district headquarters and were in control of police headquarters, said provincial police spokesman Inamuddin Rahmani.

Rahmani said Taliban fighters were as close as 1 kilometer from the city of Kunduz, the provincial capital.

Some reports said small groups of militants were near the outskirts of the city.

"The Taliban fighters are at the gates of the city and they are fighting Afghan forces," said Amruddin Wali, a Kunduz provincial council member.

The militants have also taken up positions on highways that connect Kunduz city to neighboring provinces, Wali said.

The Imam Sahib district is strategically located near Afghanistan's northern border with Tajikistan, a key supply route from Central Asia.

Militants have overrun dozens of districts since May 1, when U.S. and NATO troops began their final withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Rahmani said his forces had killed about 50 Taliban fighters in the past 24 hours. He said it still wasn't clear how many casualties the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces suffered in the protracted battle.

Both the Taliban and Afghan forces frequently inflate casualties inflicted on each other.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed confirmed Imam Sahib district was in Taliban hands “and we have heard that so many soldiers have surrendered to the Taliban.”

The Taliban said they have not launched an offensive on the city of Kunduz itself.

"We have launched operations around the city," Mujahid said.

Talks between the government and the Taliban taking place in Qatar have been stalemated.

Meanwhile, on June 20 the White House announced that President Joe Biden will meet June 25 in Washington with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the country's High Council for National Reconciliation, which oversees the government's negotiation team.

The White House has said the meeting aims at reaffirming Washington's financial and humanitarian aid “to support the Afghan people, including Afghan women, girls, and minorities.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said June 21 the meeting would also “continue to discuss how we can work together to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the U.S. homeland."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and NPR
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