The Taliban in Afghanistan have taken the city of Kunduz after a fierce gunbattle with the army. We look at the reasons why the city falling into the hands of the Taliban has made headlines across the world.
It’s the biggest Taliban victory since 2001
A U.S.-led coalition helped local Afghan forces drive the Taliban out of Kabul, the capital, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001. The loss of Kunduz, even if the Afghan government manages to take it back soon, is an ominous sign. It’s Afghanistan’s fifth largest city and the capital of the province of the same name.
It highlights the weakness of Afghanistan’s NATO-trained forces
President Obama had made it his election promise to bring soldiers deployed in Afghanistan back home. The handover of combat duties to Afghan troops was a step forward for the nascent government.
It shows the Taliban remain a force to be reckoned with
The Taliban underwent a power transition just months back and many questioned the Taliban’s power base with the rise of Islamic State. The taking of Kunduz shows the new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has consolidated his position while striking a big blow against the Afghan government.
Region’s fraught ethnic politics
President Ashraf Ghani now has a near-impossible task: to prevent panicked ethnic minorities in the region from arming themselves, thus sparking a fullscale communal war with the Pashtuns, along with ensuring that Afghanistan’s battered security apparatus is rebuilt.
It’s a fresh blow for the Afghan government
The Kunduz defeat is a setback for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Ghani has had a troubled first year in office. He took power after a lengthy political standoff with his main rival that paralyzed government. The Taliban resurgence and the increasingly apparent shortcomings of the Afghan security forces will likely do further damage to Ghani’s leadership credentials.