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Taliban Force Afghans From Homes       05/03 14:12

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Fierce fighting between government forces and 
Taliban insurgents in northern Afghanistan has forced thousands of people to 
flee their homes, officials said Sunday.

   Around 2,000 families have been displaced since the Taliban launched a 
surprise attack near the city of Kunduz nine days ago, said Meher Khuda Sabar, 
an official in the Refugee and Repatriation Ministry.

   Sabar, who heads the ministry's internal displacement department, said 
fighting has forced people into the city from surrounding areas as the 
insurgents close in. Many of the displaced were living with relatives, said 
Sayed Abdullah Hashimi, head of the Kunduz refugee department.

   The surprise attack, and the authorities' apparent failure to detect the 
insurgents massing in the area beforehand, has raised fresh concerns about the 
Afghan government's ability to secure the country following the formal 
conclusion of the U.S.-led combat mission at the end of last year.

   More than seven months after President Ashraf Ghani took office, Afghanistan 
does not have a defense minister, even as the security situation has rapidly 
deteriorated nationwide.

   After the Kunduz attack began, Ghani delayed a state visit to India by hours 
to confer with U.S. military leaders.

   Within days, the Afghan military rushed reinforcements to Kunduz. NATO said 
it had troops in the area in an advisory and training capacity __ the limited 
remit of its Resolute Support mission, which involves around 13,000 soldiers.

   Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, spokesman for the mission, said U.S. jets had 
flown over insurgent positions near Kunduz in recent days but did not drop any 

   U.S. Gen. John Campbell, who heads U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, 
meets with Ghani several times a week and participates in the regular meetings 
of Afghanistan's National Security Council, according to his office.


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