The Taliban, who have been leading an all-out offensive against Afghan forces for two months, claimed on Wednesday (July 14th) to have seized a key border post with Pakistan. Information denied by the Afghan authorities despite testimonies confirming the assertions of the insurgents.
A Pakistani security official who requested anonymity told AFP that the Taliban had ‘raised their flag and removed the Afghan flag’ from the border post between the communities of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, and Shaman, Pakistan.
Local residents contacted by AFP reported a strong Taliban presence in the border town of Weish – in official buildings, in particular – as well as on the road from Spin Boldak to Kandahar, the provincial capital.
Our fighters seized (…) Weish, in Kandahar province. From now on, the road connecting Chaman, Spin Boldak and the customs of Kandahar are under their control, announced in a statement Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman of the Taliban, assuring ‘all the traders and the inhabitants that their safety is guaranteed’.
The spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, for his part, assured AFP that the Taliban had failed to seize the border post. ‘The terrorists moved near the border area’ in the Spin Boldak district, but ‘the security forces repelled their attack,’ Tariq Arian argued.
‘I saw the Taliban were everywhere’
It was immediately impossible to verify the situation on the Afghan side of the border on the spot, but Weish market trader, Raz Mohammad, told AFP that the Taliban had been present ‘everywhere’ since Wednesday morning.
‘I went to my store this (Wednesday) morning and saw that the Taliban were everywhere. They are at the market, at the police headquarters, at the customs premises, ‘he said, adding’ hear the sound of fighting nearby ‘.
Bus driver Feda Mohammad told AFP he was arrested by the Taliban on the main road from Kandahar to Pakistan, to the large Pakistani port of Karachi – the main gateway to the ocean of landlocked Afghanistan .
‘I wanted to take passengers from Kandahar to Spin Boldak. The Taliban stopped me on the road and told me to turn around. They are patrolling the Kandahar – Spin Boldak highway. I decided not to go any further and returned ‘to Kandahar,’ he explained.
Several hours after the Taliban’s announcement, about 150 of their supporters, perched on motorcycles or crammed into cars and waving the flags of the movement, gathered on the Pakistani side of the border, asking Pakistani border guards to let them go. enter Afghanistan, an AFP journalist observed on the spot.
Pakistan on alert
Pakistani forces are ‘on high alert on (their) side’ of the border and ‘still assessing the situation,’ the Pakistani security official told AFP.
Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the Taliban and giving them refuge.
The crossing point that the Taliban say they have taken connects Afghanistan to the Pakistani province of Balochistan, reputed to be home to part of the Taliban leadership, in the city of Quetta.
Since launching a large offensive against Afghan forces in early May – thanks to the withdrawal of foreign forces – the Taliban have seized large rural parts of the country and key border posts with Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
Deprived of American air support, the Afghan forces have so far put up little resistance and essentially control only the major axes and the large cities, many of which are surrounded.
The province of Kandahar, cradle and historic stronghold of the Taliban, has been the scene for several days of intense fighting which has drawn closer to the provincial capital.
Worried, India has evacuated Indian staff from its consulate in the large city in southern Afghanistan. Tuesday evening, France called on its nationals to leave Afghanistan immediately, citing ‘the evolution of the security situation’ and the ‘short-term prospects’.
For its part, the United States will begin, the last week of July, to evacuate by plane the Afghans who have helped the American army as well as their families, announced Wednesday a senior official.