KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan officials on Wednesday warned of an influx of insurgents from neighboring Pakistan into northern Afghanistan in an attempt to destabilize what has mostly been a peaceful part of the country.
The "terrorists" are coming from Pakistan, including foreign fighters — such as Chechens and Uzbeks — from other regional countries, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.
Sediqqi said the insurgents are flooding into the northern Kunduz province, where the Taliban launched a major push over the weekend, closing in on the provincial capital, also called Kunduz.
The attack came just after the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive. Kabul has sent in reinforcements to the area this week.
Around 200 militants have been killed so far in Kunduz, Sediqqi said, adding that 12 Afghan soldiers have also died in the fighting. The insurgents were hiding in civilian homes in the villages, he added, and the troops were trying to be "careful to avoid civilian casualties."
"The Taliban and the terrorists will not succeed in creating bases or a long-term threat in the northern part of the country," Sediqqi told reporters in Kabul. He said several operations are underway in Kunduz, Baghlan and Badakhshan provinces, where Afghan forces far outnumbered militants.
Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the Defense Ministry's deputy spokesman, said the Afghan forces are battling in Kunduz on their own and have not requested any backup from international forces. This year's fighting season will be a major test for the Afghan forces, following the pullout at the end of last year of all foreign combat troops.
The Kabul government, which has been fighting the Taliban for more than a decade, has often accused Islamabad of not doing enough to prevent cross-border attacks and of providing safe haven for the Taliban, whose leadership is believed to be based in Pakistani cities including Quetta and Peshawar.
Pakistan has denied the charges and last June, launched a major operation against militants in North Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan. The operation has driven many anti-government fighters over the border into Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, a roadside bomb in eastern Khost province late Tuesday killed four people, including two policemen, according to the provincial governor's office. Four other civilians were wounded in the blast in the Dowamanda district.