Taliban wins close consulates; Tajikistan reinforces border
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A surge of Taliban wins in northern Afghanistan has caused some countries to close their consulates in the region, while across the border in Tajikistan, reservists are being called up to reinforce the southern border, according to officials and reports on Tuesday.
Nearly 1,000 Afghan soldiers have fled the Taliban advances by crossing the border into Tajikistan, according to reports from Tajikistan.
A statement on Monday from the Tajik government said President Emomali Rakhmon ordered the mobilization of 20,000 military reservists to strengthen its border with Afghanistan.
The Afghan military exodus comes as the Taliban have overrun most districts in northeastern Badakhshan province. Many fell without a fight but along the province’s northern border with Tajikistan, hundreds of Afghan forces crossed over, seeking safety in Tajikistan. The consulates of Turkey and Russia have reportedly closed in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, and Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city. Iran said it has restricted activities at its consulate in the city. There has been fighting in Balkh province, but the provincial capital has been relatively peaceful.
The consulates of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and Pakistan have reduced their services, Balkh provincial governor’s spokesman Munir Farhad said Tuesday. He said Turkey and Russia had closed their consulates and their diplomats had left the city.
However, a Turkish official said the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif was open and was “carrying on accepting visa applications and other consular requests.” The official, who was not identified by name in line with briefing rules, said Ankara was monitoring the security situation and was taking “required measures” for the safety of Turkish missions and personnel.
He did not elaborate and the conflicting reports on the Turkish Consulate could not be immediately reconciled. The consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif could not be reached by phone.
The Tajik government said Afghan troops were being allowed to cross on humanitarian grounds but the border posts on the Tajik side were in control of Tajik forces and there was no fighting with Taliban from the Tajik side.
The Taliban march gains momentum only days after the United States vacated Bagram Airfield, just an hour’s drive north of the capital, Kabul, — a sure sign that the majority of American troops have left Afghanistan.
The U.S. withdrew from what had been the epicenter of the U.S.-led coalition’s nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan by s hutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night, without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, according Afghan military officials said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was “heightened concern” over the fighting but that Russia has no plans to send troops to assist Tajikistan, once a part of the Soviet Union.