The Kunduz collapse

The Taliban have withdrawn from the northern Afghan city, but the residents are still in shock

The Kunduz collapse
Two weeks after the northern city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban, the Afghan security forces have taken back most of the town. But the horrifying episode has left the residents of Kunduz in a shock.

“We were all amazed… the government has always prided itself on its armed forces and its ability to keep security, saying it is very strong. But in a few hours a province that is the capital of a zone [of the country] collapsed,” Karima Sadiqi, a member of the Kunduz provincial council told The National, an Arab daily. “We were all shocked.”

The invading militants included Uzbek, Uighur and other Central Asian fighters, many of whom had been driven out of Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area after the launch of a military operation last year.
The invading militants included Central Asian fighters, many of whom had been driven out of North Waziristan

In the beginning, the Taliban seemed to be wooing the locals, some fighters even taking selfies with them. But within days, they were back to exhibiting the cruelty that was the hallmark of their barbaric rule from 1996 to 2011.

One of the first buildings they broke into was to a women’s radio station. Before leaving, they stole the equipment and set the office on fire.

Encouraged by the success of her radio service, Sediqa Sherazi, the owner of the station, had been working on setting up a TV station too. But now, she will have to start from scratch. “Eyewitnesses told me that armed men looted the station’s equipment before the building was burned down. Most of the equipment was brand new and some was not even unpacked,” she told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government has ordered an investigation into the bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital by US aircraft providing air support to Afghan forces.President Ashraf Ghani appointed a five-member commission headed by former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh to probe the attack. The MSF, an international humanitarian organization also known by its English name Doctors without Borders, has called it a war crime.

US President Barack Obama apologized for the incident, admitting it was a mistake. Later, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters:  “One step the department can take is to make condolence payments to civilian non-combatants injured and the families of civilian non-combatants killed as a result of US military operations.”

Among them was 26-year-old Najibullah Momand, a handsome half-blind janitor at the MSF hospital.

On the day of the bombing, despite calls from his grandfather who lived nearby, he did not go home and insisted on helping the wounded of the fighting raging inside the city. His brother was by his side when the first bombs were dropped. “It was 2:08am,” said his brother Naqibullah, speaking with difficulty to the New York Times, weeping uncontrollably at times. “Everyone was just screaming. It was a disaster.” Naqib was himself injured. The next day, when he was looking for his brother, all he found was Najibullah’s body and a pair of flip flops which he had bought for his daughter Sahar. The trauma center has been closed down and the MSF has evacuated its staff.

After many days of fighting, thousands of people fled the city. Several of the displaced people staged a demonstration in Kabul, demanding the government clear the city of the Taliban. The Afghan Ministry of Refugees has registered 20,000 displaced families so far, but has been unable to provide them food and shelter.

It has urged international humanitarian assistance groups and the UN for help. In a press release, the WFP said it had was sending food for a month to more than 150 families who fled to Mazar-e-Sharif, and nearly 950 families displaced to Taloqan city, the capital of neighboring Takhar province.

Javed Hamim Kakar, an Afghan journalist and senior editor at Pajhwok news agency told me that the provincial governor had asked the displaced people to come back. “Thegovernor has asked the people to return to their homes, and promised that daily life would soon return to normal,” he said. “He claims all parts of the city [have been] cleared of the Taliban.”

Locals say electricity had been restored in Kunduz by Tuesday, but there were still problems with water supply.

Raza Wazir is a freelance journalist who follows the changing situation in FATA, Balochistan and the wider Af-Pak region