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India pulls officials from Afghanistan's Kandahar as Taliban advance

India pulls officials from Afghanistan's Kandahar as Taliban advance
July 11, 2021

MUMBAI (Reuters) - As Taliban fighters continue to gain control amid the withdrawal of international forces, India said Sunday it had temporarily brought back officials from its consulate in Kandahar, a major city in southern Afghanistan.

"Due to intense fighting near Kandahar city, India-based personnel have been brought back for the time being," Arindam Bagchi, chief spokesperson at India's foreign ministry, said in a statement.

"India is closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan," Bagchi said, adding that India's consulate in Kandahar was being run by local staff temporarily.

Taliban officials said on Friday they had taken control of 85% of Afghanistan's territory, as the US and others withdraw the bulk of their troops after 20 years of fighting. Afghan government officials dismissed the assertion as a propaganda campaign.

India's foreign minister on Friday called for a reduction in violence, saying the situation in the war-torn nation has a direct bearing on regional security.

Afghanistan to rush troops to key trade crossing day earlier, Afghan authorities prepared to try to retake a key border crossing seized by the Taliban in a sweeping offensive that the group claim has helped capture a vast swath of the violence-wracked nation.

As US troops continued their withdrawal, the Taliban said their fighters had seized two crossings in western Afghanistan — completing an arc of territory from the Iranian border to the frontier with China.

It now held 85% of the country, a Taliban official claimed Friday, controlling about 250 of Afghanistan's nearly 400 districts — a claim impossible to independently verify, and disputed by the government.

Beijing, meanwhile, which has criticised Washington for its hasty withdrawal, urged its citizens to leave the country "as soon as possible" after evacuating 210 nationals.

The "complex and severe domestic security situation" prompted the evacuation warning, the foreign ministry said, adding that 22 of those flown out tested positive for coronavirus on arrival in China.

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