UN warns Afghanistan at ‘dangerous turning point’ as conflict spirals
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA): Afghanistan is at a “dangerous turning point” as the Taliban continue to press their sweeping nationwide offensive against government forces, the UN special envoy for the war-torn country warned on Friday as Taliban entered a key border town of Zarani.
“Ahead lies either a genuine peace negotiation or a tragically intertwined set of crises: An increasingly brutal conflict combined with an acute humanitarian situation, and multiplying human rights abuses,” Deborah Lyons told the Security Council.
“Today we have an opportunity, an opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of the UN Security Council and the international community that you represent to prevent Afghanistan from descending into a situation of catastrophe so serious that it would have few, if any, parallels this century,” she said.
“Such a catastrophe would have consequences far beyond the borders of Afghanistan,” added Lyons.
Taliban on Friday entered the key border town of Zaranj in the western Nimorz province next to Iran, confirmed officials.
Videos circulated by the pro-Taliban accounts on social media showed the insurgents carrying rifles entering the provincial governor’s office in this important city sitting on the key trade route with Iran.
Ghulam Sidiq, a spokesman for the Afghan National Police in the city, told Anadolu Agency that the reason for the fall of Zaranj was the lack of reinforcement for the security forces who were under the siege by the Taliban.
UN estimates indicate that over 1,000 people have been killed over the past month as the Taliban seeks to capture major government-held cities, and has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on the capital, including one that targeted Afghanistan’s defense minister.
Earlier on Friday, five people were killed after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a passenger bus in Afghanistan’s restive central Maidan Wardak province, local sources told Anadolu Agency.
The provincial administration blamed the Taliban for the incident. However, the insurgents rejected the charge and instead blamed the security forces for the attack.
In the south, Afghan forces launched a major ground and air offensive against advancing Taliban insurgents in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province.
Gen. Sami Sadat, a young commander of the Afghan National Army’s 215 Maiwand Corps, is heading the offensive with the backing of US air raids, sources told Anadolu Agency.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed in a series of tweets that no harm had befallen their fighters, but scores of shops and markets were destroyed.
The new wave of deadly clashes erupted last week when, after overrunning nearly 200 rural districts, the Taliban began assaults on major cities as they marched on Herat city near the Iranian border, causing panic and anxiety in this third-biggest city of an estimated half-a-million inhabitants.
Meanwhile, a senior Afghan official and former spokesman of the President was assassinated by the Taliban in the capital Kabul on Friday, authorities confirmed.
The killing of Dawa Khan Menapal, who was the head of the Government Media Information Center (GMIC), took place on the Darul Aman road at around noon, with the Taliban taking responsibility, Afghanistan‘s Interior Ministry said.
*Betul Yuruk in New York contributed to this report
[Photo: Afghan security forces deployed at start of operations against Taliban around Torkham border point between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan on July 23, 2021. Photographer: Stringer/AA]
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