Conflicts & War

Taliban say won’t force capture of Afghan cities to avoid civilian casualties

Kabul, July 5 (EFE).- The Taliban Monday said they planned to capture no Afghan provincial capital by military force even as its fighters continue making rapid territorial gains amid an ongoing withdrawal of foreign troops from the war-ravaged country.

A Taliban spokesperson said the militia would spare the provincial capitals to avoid civilian casualties despite the fighters holding up near several main cities.

“In our first phase, we have plans for the districts and highways that should be completed,” spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told EFE in an unprecedented public acknowledgment of the Taliban war strategy.

“The plan for the capture of district centers and highways is somehow accomplished. We are working on the rest of the districts and highways,” Mujahid said.

He acknowledged that the provincial capitals were highly populated, with most of the people concentrated in urban areas after they left their villages due to security concerns.

“There will be lots of damages and losses” if the Taliban attacked the cities, he said.

The Taliban territorial gains coincide with the final phase of the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan that began on May 1.

The last group of the United States and other foreign forces left the Bagram airfield after Friday midnight without any prior announcement.

Located about 70 km (43 miles) from north of Kabul, the Bagram military base served as a nerve center in the two decades of war against Taliban and Al Qaeda groups.

The US announced last week that it planned to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August, days earlier than planned.

However, Washington will maintain its diplomatic presence in the country.

The withdrawal of coalition forces is part of the agreement signed in Doha in February last year between the US and the Taliban.

The Americans pledged to leave Afghanistan, and the insurgents vowed not to carry out attacks against the US or other foreign troops.

The Taliban agreed to initiate a dialog with the Afghan government for a political solution to the decades of war.

Violence in the country has spiked as representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban try to resume the stalled intra-Afghan talks in Doha.


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