KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. airstrikes hit Taliban positions overnight around a key northern city seized by insurgents this week as Afghan troops massed on the ground Wednesday ahead of what is likely to be a protracted battle to retake Kunduz.
The Taliban were also gearing for the long fight and their fighters were seen planting bombs and mining roads in and out of the city on Wednesday to slow down Afghan forces.
Also overnight, there was fierce fighting for control of Kunduz’s airport, a few kilometers (miles) outside the city, before the Taliban retreated under fire, several residents said. The airport remained in Afghan government hands.
U.S. Army spokesman, Col. Brian Tribus, said there were two new airstrikes and that U.S. and NATO coalition advisers, including special forces were at the scene “in the Kunduz area, advising Afghan security forces.”
The Taliban captured Kunduz, a city of 300,000 people, on Monday. It was the first major urban area they seized since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted their extremist regime.
The attack took Afghan authorities by surprise, as the militants managed to sneak into the city during the recent Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, a busy season when many Afghans travel in and out of urban areas.
The infiltration was an apparent intelligence failure, and the head of the country’s intelligence agency, Rahmatullah Nabil, apologized to lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday for it.
Since the capture, the Taliban have put Kunduz on lockdown. Militants have been going house to house searching for government workers, instilling fear, according to residents who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.
Roads in and out of the city were blocked and the Taliban — believed to have joined forces with other insurgent groups to boost their numbers — were said to be forcing boys and young men to fight with them.
Read more: militarytimes.com