UN chief warns Afghanistan ‘spinning out of control’ amid Taliban offensive

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

WASHINGTON:  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Friday that Afghanistan is rapidly “spinning out of control,” calling on the Taliban to immediately halt its nationwide offensive.

“Even for a country that has tragically known generations of conflict, Afghanistan is in the throes of yet another chaotic and desperate chapter – an incredible tragedy for its long-suffering people,” Guterres told reporters at the UN’s New York headquarters.

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Over 1,000 people have been killed or injured within the past month due to “indiscriminate attacks,” particularly in the Helmand, Kandahar and Herat provinces, Guterres said.

“The fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in urban environments is causing tremendous harm,” he told reporters at the UN’s New York headquarters, noting over 240,000 people have been displaced within Afghanistan as humanitarian needs grow “by the hour.”

“Hospitals are overflowing. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Roads, bridges, schools, clinics and other critical infrastructure are being destroyed. Every day, the conflict is taking an ever bigger toll on women and children,” he added. “Continued urban conflict will mean continued carnage – with civilians paying the highest price.”

Making rapid gains over the past few days, the Taliban have now reportedly taken control of 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.

Horrifying and heartbreaking

The UN has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the fighting reaches the streets of the capital Kabul, after the Taliban on Thursday seized the key strategic city of Ghazni. It lies just 149 kilometers (92 miles) southwest of Kabul.

The hardline group also seized Pul-e-Alam, the capital of the eastern Logar province, which lies less than 90 km (55 mi) west of Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a series of tweets on Friday.

Guterres said he is “deeply disturbed by early indications that the Taliban are imposing severe restrictions on human rights in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women and journalists.”

“It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away from them,” he said.

“The message from the international community to those on the warpath must be clear: seizing power through military force is a losing proposition. That can only lead to prolonged civil war or to the complete isolation of Afghanistan,” he added.-IANS

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