Special forces from the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan battled insurgents on Wednesday near the northern city of Kunduz that was captured by the Taliban this week, a coalition spokesman and Afghan official said.
It was the first report of on-the-ground clashes between Taliban militants and foreign troops supporting their Afghan allies during three days of sometimes heavy fighting for control of the strategic city of 300,000.
Kunduz is the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since the hardline Islamist movement was toppled from power in 2001.
The swift re-taking of the city promised by President Ashraf Ghani has failed to materialize, as Taliban fighters dig into positions around the city and mine roads to prevent reinforcements from reaching weary Afghan forces.
In a major setback, nearly 200 Afghan security personnel abandoned Bala Hissar hill, a key outpost in Kunduz that overlooks the city’s main roads, after running out of ammunition and food supplies, said an Afghan security official.
Troops fled the strategic position in pick-up trucks and Humvees. Dozens headed for shelter at Kunduz airport, where thousands of police and soldiers have already retreated in the last two days of fighting.
To the south, in neighboring Baghlan province, a group of 800 Afghan troops on its way to reinforce Kunduz repelled a Taliban ambush and was waiting for bomb squads to clear the road into the city, said Afghan army officer Sayed Ahmad Mujahid.
They had only advanced about one kilometer during the day, he added.
“THEY DEFENDED THEMSELVES”
At least three U.S. air…