The New York Times reports: The Taliban were close to overrunning a major Afghan city for the first time in years on Monday, as their fighters took control of several government buildings in Kunduz, an important provincial capital in the north, and raised their flag in at least one neighborhood, officials and residents said.
The offensive was the second time this year that the insurgents have made a run for Kunduz in an effort to carve out more territory in the north and take a major city, which would be a huge blow to the struggling government of President Ashraf Ghani. The Afghan security forces, largely on their own this year, have been stretched thin across the country as they try to fend off Taliban assaults in several provinces.
Offices, schools and most of the roads out of Kunduz remained closed on Monday, with the Taliban setting up checkpoints on some roads. On Twitter, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, urged Kunduz residents to stay in their homes until the fighting was over. Still, families were seen fleeing the city via a thoroughfare that bypasses the airport, which remained open.
By early afternoon, the militants had taken control of several government buildings, including the compound of the provincial council, and the Departments of Agricultural and Rural Development, according to Amruddin Wali, the deputy head of the provincial council. Small groups of Taliban fighters could be seen in the west of the city walking around freely and interacting with residents. [Continue reading…]