Germany tells its citizens to leave Afghanistan

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany urged its citizens on Thursday to leave Afghanistan on scheduled flights as soon as they can due to the deteriorating security situation.

Taliban fighters captured the strategic city of Ghazni on Thursday, taking them to within 150 km (90 miles) of Kabul following days of fierce clashes as the Islamist group ruled out sharing power with the government based there.

The speed and violence of the Taliban advance has sparked anger among many Afghans over U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops and leave the government to fight alone.

“German nationals on the ground are strongly urged to take opportunities to leave the country on scheduled flights as soon as possible,” the Foreign Ministry said on its website.

The defense minister on Monday rejected calls for Berlin to send soldiers back to Afghanistan after the insurgents took Kunduz, the city where German troops were deployed for a decade.

Germany had the second largest military contingent in Afghanistan after the United States, and lost more troops in combat in Kunduz than anywhere else since World War Two.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

U.N. – situation ‘rapidly deteriorating’ in embattled Afghan city

Afghan security forces keep watch in front of their armoured vehicle in Kunduz city, Afghanistan

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Fighting in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz has led to a “rapidly deteriorating” humanitarian situation, officials said on Thursday, leaving thousands of people with limited access to food, water, or medical care.

Street-to-street gun battles have continued for four days after Taliban militants slipped past the city’s defenses on Monday.

Government troops, backed by U.S. special forces and air strikes, have repeatedly declared that they are in control of the city, but residents report that heavy fighting has forced many people to flee.

The fighting has forced as many as 10,000 people from their homes in Kunduz, the United Nations reported, with those who remain facing serious water, food and electricity shortages, as well as threats from the fighting.

“Many families were unable to bring their possessions with them and are in a precarious position,” Dominic Parker, head of the U.N.’s humanitarian coordination office, said in a statement. “We have had reports that some families have been forced to sleep out in the open and many have few food supplies.”

Among those fleeing Kunduz are about two-thirds of the staff at the city’s main public hospital, which was struck by several rockets and small arms fire, said Marzia Yaftali Salaam, a doctor.

The 200-bed public hospital is the main provider of medical care in Kunduz after a more advanced trauma center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres was destroyed by an American air strike last year.

In the past three days, the hospital has been inundated by at least 210 patients, many of them civilians, including women and children, wounded in the fighting, Salaam said.

“Many of the wounded had to be carried to clinics in surrounding districts and private clinics in the city,” she said. “If the situation remains the same, we may be forced to halt our services.”

During a lull in the fighting on Wednesday, nearly 50 casualties were rushed to the hospital in the span of a few hours, said Hameed Alam, head of the public health department in Kunduz.

The U.S. military command in Kabul said Afghan forces are “defeating Taliban attempts to take Kunduz,” with reinforcements on the way and commandos continuing to clear “isolated pockets” of Taliban fighters.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, are seeking to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule.

“There is fighting in every street and the situation is critical,” said Ismail Kawasi, a spokesman for the Public Health Ministry in Kabul.

Additional medical supplies and personnel were positioned in neighboring provinces, but they must wait for the fighting to subside before they can be flown to Kunduz, he said.

(Reporting by Sardar Razmal; Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni in Kabul; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Nick Macfie and Dominic Evans)

Residents flee as Afghan troops battle Taliban in city of Kunduz

Afghan security forces fight Taliban

KABUL (Reuters) – Thousands of residents have fled or face deteriorating conditions as fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants entered its third day in the embattled northern city of Kunduz, officials said on Wednesday.

Taliban fighters easily penetrated the city’s defenses on Monday, raising questions about the capacity of the Western-backed security forces, even as international donors meet in Brussels to approve billions of dollars in new development aid for Afghanistan.

“Most civilians have abandoned Kunduz city and have gone to neighboring districts or provinces,” said Kunduz provincial governor Asadullah Amarkhel. “There is no electricity, no water and no food. Many shops are closed.”

Government troops, backed by U.S. special forces and air strikes, have made slow but “significant” progress in clearing the city, said Kunduz police chief Qasim Jangalbagh.

He acknowledged, however, that the situation remained dangerous for many residents.

“There are security problems in the city,” he said. “People do not have enough food, water and other needs so they are evacuating the city to go to safe places.”

In social media posts, the Taliban rejected claims that the government had retaken Kunduz and accused security forces and U.S. troops of committing abuses against civilians.

The U.S. military command in Kabul said there was “sporadic” fighting within Kunduz but Afghan security forces controlled the city.

American aircraft conducted at least two air strikes on Wednesday to “defend friendly forces who were receiving enemy fire”, the military said in a statement online.

“The city is locked down,” said Hajji Hasem, a resident leaving Kunduz with his family on Wednesday. “If the Taliban and air strikes do not kill you, hunger and thirst will.”

Increased attacks by insurgents hoping to topple the Western-backed government and install Islamist rule have tested the Afghan security forces who are struggling to defend major cities and roads a year and a half after a NATO-led force declared an end to its combat mission.

The violence has displaced nearly 1 million Afghans within the country, according to the United Nations, and contributed to an exodus of tens of thousands to Europe and other areas.

The two-day, EU-led donor conference in Brussels is seeking fresh funds despite Western public fatigue with involvement in Afghanistan, 15 years after the U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

(Reporting by Afghanistan bureau; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel)