Afghanistan Taliban Kunduz offensive
Afghan local police (ALP) prepare for battle with the Taliban at Chardara district, in Kunduz province, AfghanistanReuters file photo

Intense fighting is raging between Afghan forces and Taliban militants in the fallen city of Kunduz as the troops attempt to retake government buildings. The intensified counter-offensive came after the Taliban insurgents were said to be closing in on the airport, where security personnel had taken shelter earlier. The operations are being aided by US air strikes, which have been targeting key Taliban positions inside Kunduz and on its outskirts.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said his forces had retaken control of some of the state-run facilities including the police headquarters and prison in the strategic northern city, located near the Pakistan border. In a televised address, Ghani said: "Though the problem has been created, the problem is limited. We assure the people the province of Kunduz is under the management of security forces. This war has been imposed on us as you all know in the name of one (Mullah Omar) who had been dead for more than two years, the biggest lie in the history imposed on our people."

Afghan officials claim at least 80 Islamists have been killed in the counter-attack though it is yet to be independently verified. Local reports suggest the so-called Taliban shadow governor, Maulavi Salam, was also killed in the air strike. According to the Afghan agency National Directorate of Security (NDS), the senior Taliban commander, who was a key figure in the Kunduz offensive, was killed along with several other militants.

The Pentagon has expressed confidence in the Afghan forces' ability to recapture Kunduz. A Pentagon spokesperson said a small number of the coalition forces were on the ground "training, advising and assisting the Afghan security forces in accordance with our resolute support mission".

The Kunduz offensive is one of the most significant armed assaults staged by the Taliban extremists in recent years which has already piled more pressure on the Kabul administration. This is the first major operation launched by the Taliban extremists since the US-led invasion uprooted them in 2001.