The Afghan government has sought air support from India to help push back advancing Taliban fighters, The Print has reported, citing sources from the Ashraf Ghani administration.
The Delhi-based outlet wrote that Afghan foreign minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar and his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, discussed Indian Air Force (IAF) assistance in a phone conversation.
According to their report, New Delhi turned down the request.
Fighting to Intensify After US Withdrawal
The Kabul administration’s “aggressive” push for IAF support comes as the deadline for US withdrawal from the country is at the end of the month. The outlet revealed that the Afghan administration is apprehensive that the Taliban onslaught will intensify after the 31st of August.
The insurgent group seized two provincial capitals on Sunday — Taleqan, the capital of the northeastern province of Takhar, and the strategically important Kunduz — bringing the number of provincial capitals under its control to five.
By Tuesday, the group had captured four more capitals: Aybak, capital of Samangan province; Farah city of Farah province; Pul-e-Khumri, capital of Baghlan province; and Faizabad, capital of Badakhshan. These territorial seizures raise the total capitals under their control to nine. Afghanistan has thirty-four provinces and 419 districts.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that the Taliban controls half of the country’s districts.
US Air Strikes
Meanwhile, the US Air Force has stepped up its two-week air campaign against the Taliban to support the Afghan Armed Forces. The US airstrikes reportedly include B-52 bombers and AC-130 Spectre gunships.
In a statement on Sunday, the Taliban vowed revenge for the strikes, which it says have hit civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools in Helmand province.