Taliban says fighters seized control of border town of Islam Qala - completing an arc of territory from Iran’s border to the frontier with China. Afghan officials said efforts are under way to recapture the site.

Members of an internally displaced Afghan family who left their home during the ongoing conflict between Taliban and Afghan security forces arrive from Qala-i- Naw, in Enjil district of Herat, on July 8, 2021. /
Members of an internally displaced Afghan family who left their home during the ongoing conflict between Taliban and Afghan security forces arrive from Qala-i- Naw, in Enjil district of Herat, on July 8, 2021. / (AFP)

The World Health Organization is concerned about worsening access to provide life-saving medicines and supplies in Afghanistan and attacks on health care facilities, as Afghan forces fight Taliban insurgents.

Rick Brennan, WHO regional emergencies director for its Eastern Mediterranean regional office, said on Friday that aid supplies would arrive next week including 3.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses and oxygen concentrators.

"It is a terribly concerning situation and it's very fluid right now," Brennan, speaking from Cairo, told a UN briefing in Geneva. "We are concerned about our lack of access to be able to provide essential medicines and supplies and we are concerned about attacks on health care."

The World Health Organization also said that at least 56 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last week alone and that there was a 29 percent increase in civilians casualties in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period from the previous year.

READ MORE: Taliban seizes key border crossing with Iran as Afghan soldiers flee

Taliban reassure China

Meanwhile, the Taliban has reassured Russia it will not allow the country to be used as platform to attack foreign countries, as tensions on the Afghan-Tajik border were escalating with the group taking control of many border districts.

A Taliban delegation in Moscow said on Friday that the group controlled over 85 percent of territory in Afghanistan, a claim that could not be independently verified.

The group now also controls about two-thirds of the border with Tajikistan, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

After almost 20 years of fighting, foreign forces, including the United States, are withdrawing from the war-torn country.

Since May the Taliban insurgents are trying to gain fresh territory in Afghanistan.

That has prompted hundreds of Afghan security personnel and refugees to flee across the border into neighbouring Tajikistan and raised fears in Moscow and other capitals that the group could infiltrate Central Asia.

At a news conference in Moscow on Friday, three Taliban officials sought to signal that they did not pose a threat to the wider region however.

The officials said the Taliban would do all it could to prevent the Daesh terror group from operating on Afghan territory and that it would also seek to wipe out drug production.

"We will take all measures so that Daesh will not operate on Afghan territory... and our territory will never be used against our neighbours," Taliban official Shahabuddin Delawar said through a translator.

The same delegation said a day earlier that the group would not attack the Tajik-Afghan border, the fate of which is in focus in Russia and Central Asia.

Moscow has noted a sharp increase in tensions on the same border, two thirds of which the Taliban currently controls, the Interfax news agency cited Russia's foreign ministry as saying on Friday.

Russia's foreign ministry called on all sides of the Afghanistan conflict to show restraint and said that Russia and the Moscow-led CSTO military bloc would act decisively to prevent aggression on the border if necessary, RIA reported.

On Friday , the Taliban said fighters had seized the border town of Islam Qala - completing an arc of territory from the Iranian border to the frontier with China.

Afghan officials said efforts are under way to recapture the site.

Also on Friday, the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents have captured Afghanistan's key border crossing with Turkmenistan.

Afghanistan's interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said security forces at the port had been "temporarily relocated" and efforts had been launched to recapture the crossing.

Hours earlier, Biden said the US military mission would end on August 31 - nearly 20 years after it began - having "achieved" its goals.

But he admitted it was "highly unlikely" Kabul would be able to control the entire country.

Afghan commandos have clashed with the insurgents this week in a provincial capital for the first time, with thousands of people fleeing Qala-e-Naw in northwest Badghis province.

China evacuates nationals from Afghanistan amid US pullout

China meanwhile has sent a flight to bring home 210 of its nationals from Afghanistan, state media reported on.

The Global Times newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party said the Xiamen Airlines flight departed July 2 from the capital Kabul and landed in the central province of Hubei. 

The airline confirmed the report in a post on its Twitter-like Weibo account but offered no additional details.

The Global Times and other reports said 22 of those onboard tested positive for Covid-19, although those numbers did not appear on the National Health Commission’s daily report of new cases.
Chinese companies have invested in Afghan mining and infrastructure, but those assets appear increasingly in jeopardy as the Taliban seize large amounts of territory, possibly placing Kabul at risk.

The Taliban have been emboldened by the troop withdrawal and, with peace talks with the government deadlocked, appear to be pressing for a full military victory.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies