UN warns Afghanistan at ‘dangerous turning point’ as conflict spirals

WASHINGTON (AA): Afghanistan is at a “dangerous turning point” as the Taliban continue to press their sweeping nationwide offensive against government forces, the UN special envoy for the war-torn country warned on Friday.

“Ahead lies either a genuine peace negotiation or a tragically intertwined set of crises: An increasingly brutal conflict combined with an acute humanitarian situation, and multiplying human rights abuses,” Deborah Lyons told the Security Council.

“Today we have an opportunity, an opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of the UN Security Council and the international community that you represent to prevent Afghanistan from descending into a situation of catastrophe so serious that it would have few, if any, parallels this century,” she said.

“Such a catastrophe would have consequences far beyond the borders of Afghanistan,” added Lyons.

UN estimates indicate that over 1,000 people have been killed over the past month as the Taliban seeks to capture major government-held cities, and has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on the capital, including one that targeted Afghanistan’s defense minister.

Earlier on Friday, five people were killed after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a passenger bus in Afghanistan’s restive central Maidan Wardak province, local sources told Anadolu Agency.

The provincial administration blamed the Taliban for the incident. However, the insurgents rejected the charge and instead blamed the security forces for the attack.

In the south, Afghan forces launched a major ground and air offensive against advancing Taliban insurgents in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province.

Gen. Sami Sadat, a young commander of the Afghan National Army’s 215 Maiwand Corps, is heading the offensive with the backing of US air raids, sources told Anadolu Agency.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed in a series of tweets that no harm had befallen their fighters, but scores of shops and markets were destroyed.

The new wave of deadly clashes erupted last week when, after overrunning nearly 200 rural districts, the Taliban began assaults on major cities as they marched on Herat city near the Iranian border, causing panic and anxiety in this third-biggest city of an estimated half-a-million inhabitants.

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