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Iran Press TV

Russia: Afghan Taliban offensive running out of steam

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 05 August 2021 6:00 PM

A senior Russian foreign ministry official says the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan is "gradually running out of steam" as the militant group lacks resources to seize major cities across the conflict-ridden country.

Alexander Vikantov, deputy head of information and press at the Russian foreign ministry, was quoted by Interfax news agency as making the comment on Thursday, following reports that the Afghan government forces had managed to retake some districts captured by the Taliban last month.

"The Taliban lack the resources to take over and hold major cities including the capital, Kabul. Their offensive is gradually running out of steam," Vikantov said, adding that Russia would continue to press for peace talks between the Afghan government and the militants.

Peace negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban started last year in the Qatari capital of Doha, but have not made any progress.

Violence has been surging across Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from the country. The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban from power, but it worsened the security situation in the country.

Several provincial capitals have been encircled by the Taliban, and heavy fighting has been going on for days now in the capitals of Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south, and in the city of Herat in the west.

The Taliban militants are believed to be in control of about half of Afghanistan's roughly 400 districts. Media reports indicate that the militants have focused on rural areas and no major city has fallen to the Taliban yet.

An emergency has been declared in the strategic city of Lashkar Gah — the capital of southern Helmand Province — as Afghan military forces are dispatched to the city to repel a Taliban offensive.

If captured, Lashkar Gah would be the first provincial capital to fall to the militant group. So far, they have taken control of some radio and TV stations in the city.

Russia-led drills begin on Afghanistan border

Separately on Thursday, the Russian military's chief of staff arrived in Central Asia region where Moscow is holding joint military drills with two ex-Soviet countries bordering Afghanistan.

Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military's General Staff, flew into Uzbekistan to observe joint Russian-Uzbek military drills. Both armies also took part in separate exercises with neighboring Tajikistan on the same day.

Gerasimov said in a meeting with his Uzbek counterpart Shukhrat Khalmukhamedov that the drills took place amid a worsening situation in the region and "to practice actions to repel terrorist threats."

"The main threat to the Central Asian region today comes from the Afghan direction," he added.

Gerasimov also said Moscow was increasing supplies of weapons to the region amid an escalation in Afghanistan that he blamed on the "hasty" withdrawal of US-led forces.

The joint drills are taking place from August 5 to 10 at the Kharbmaidon training ground in Tajikistan, 20 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan. The drills involve 2,500 troops from Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

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