Afghanistan reshuffles top army brass to counter advancing Taliban

Taliban claim capture of domestic airport in Kunduz, Defense Ministry says 439 insurgents killed in a day

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – In a major reshuffle at the top level of the Afghan National Army, two young and hawkish military officers have taken charge of the regular armed forces and special units, sources confirmed on Wednesday.

Amid continued Taliban advances in the war-ravaged country, Gen. Hibatullah Alizai was appointed as chief of the armed forces, while Gen. Sami Sadat took the helm of the army’s Special Forces, the National Security Council has confirmed in a statement.

Prior to this, Sadat was heading the crucial 215-Maiwand Corps in the south of the country, where he has been credited with pushing back major Taliban onslaughts on Lashkargah city.

Alizai had been heading the Special Forces until now.

There were no comments from official sources on the reasons behind the replacement of former army chief Gen. Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, who had only recently taken charge, along with the newly appointed Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi.

According to the local Etilaat Roz daily, the former army chief was criticized by parliament for failing to properly lead the military against the Taliban.

In a Twitter post, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that over the last 24 hours, Afghan forces had killed 439 Taliban insurgents and wounded 77 others in the provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Logar, Paktia, Uruzgan, Zabul, Ghor, Farah, Balkh, Helmand Kapisa, and Baghlan.

Taliban capture Kunduz airport

Meanwhile, the Kunduz airport in northern Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, making it the first such key facility to be overrun by the advancing insurgents, reported local media.

The Salam Afghanistan radio quoted local officials in the restive province as saying that security forces stationed at this domestic airport retreated after the Taliban captured most of Kunduz.

“Kunduz airport is completely ‘conquered’. This afternoon, the ‘Mujahideen’ of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) entered the square and took control of all its facilities. A large number of weapons, vehicles, and equipment were seized by the ‘Mujahedeen’,” tweeted Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed.

The group posted pictures and videos of armed fighters inside the airport on social media.

Earlier in the day, the advancing Taliban claimed to have captured Fayzabad, the center of northern Badakhshan province on the border with Tajikistan.

Seemingly undeterred by the heavy death toll that Afghan forces claimed to have inflicted on the insurgents, the Taliban continued with their advances on urban centers after capturing nearly 200 rural districts.

Fayzabad became the ninth provincial capital after Aybak, Qala-e-Nau, Lashkargah, Zaranj, Sheberghan, Kunduz, Taluqan, and Sar-e-Pul to be partly or fully overrun by the Taliban.


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