The Taliban on Tuesday seized control of Afghanistan's strategically important transit port of Shir Khan Bander in the city of Kunduz, situated at the northeastern border with Tajikistan, after over 48 hours of fighting during which the insurgents have overrun large part of the province.
“We lost Shir Khan port, the main trade hub and customs of Kunduz province to the Taliban and the security forces retreated back,” a provincial council member told EFE on the condition of anonymity.
At least two witnesses who work at the inland port confirmed to EFE that the Taliban had overrun the premises Tuesday morning.
The Shir Khan port is situated at the border with Tajikistan and is one of the eight main transit ports in Afghanistan, contributing significantly to the country's international trade and income.
The port fell in the hands of the Taliban after the insurgents launched armed attacks all over the Kunduz province, seizing control of large parts of the region.
“The situation is very bad in Kunduz, Taliban are attacking defensive check posts of the security forces around Kunduz city from all directions,” another member of the provincial council told EFE, asking to remain anonymous.
The official said that security forces had retreated from nearly all district headquarters of the province over the past two days and have gathered in the capital Kunduz city.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the group had captured the transit port in Kunduz.
“All soldiers of the Kabul administration in Shir Khan port surrendered to the Mujahidins (Taliban fighters) with all their weapons and equipment,” he said in a statement.
The Afghan defense ministry has deployed fresh commando forces to defend Kunduz from the rebels.
“Lots of fresh commando forces arrived in Kunduz province, they have planned to launch joint clearance operations against nests of the Taliban in the capital and districts of this province,” the military's Special Operation Corps said in a statement Tuesday.
The Taliban had seized control of Kunduz city in September 2015 for two days in their first ever victory over a provincial capital since the fall of the regime in 2001 after the United States' invasion.
Since then, the insurgents have launched repeated attacks to capture the city, but have been pushed back by Afghan security forces every time.
The violence in Kunduz is part of a major offensive by the Taliban that has continued for a month and a half after the US and NATO forces announced their complete withdrawal from the country on May 1.
Through multiple and widespread attacks, the Taliban, who have so far been mainly entrenched in northern Afghanistan, have managed to capture around 50 districts in 20 of the country's 34 provinces.
Violence has surged in the country even as representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban are trying to resume the stalled intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, which have been stuck in a deadlock for six months.
The senior advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, Waheed Omer, alleged in a press conference on Tuesday that the Taliban had focused on war instead of peace after the foreign troops began pulling out.
“Everywhere where they captured a district, they burned down (government) district buildings, closed schools and put people in problems,” Omer said.