2 Afghan Military Aircraft Crash as Flights Become More Crucial

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan officials reported two crashes of military flights on Monday, one involving a small plane and the other a transport helicopter. The disclosures came as the NATO coalition in Afghanistan identified those killed in a NATO helicopter crash the day before as two British service members, two Americans and one French contractor.

The recent string of military crashes — officials say none involved enemy fire — comes at a time when transport flights have taken on increased importance in Afghanistan as widespread Taliban offensives have choked off many of the country’s major roadways.

In Monday’s crashes, two pilots were killed and five passengers were injured when a small Afghan military transport plane struck a mountain ridge while delivering the body of a deceased soldier in central Bamian Province, officials said. And in the eastern province of Logar, a transport helicopter carrying Afghan troops between districts made an emergency landing that left two crew members injured.

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Taliban Presence in Afghanistan

The Taliban took the northern city of Kunduz on Monday after a year of advancing toward the area. It is the first major city to fall to their control since 2001, but the insurgents continue to attack other areas throughout rural Afghanistan.

The crash on Sunday of the NATO helicopter, identified as a Puma Mk 2 operated by the British, was the second this month by a NATO aircraft. A United States military C-130 plane crashed shortly after take off in eastern Afghanistan on Oct. 3, killing six American service members and several civilians.

The government says 13 of the country’s 34 provinces have faced intense fighting over the last six months. In many cases, the Afghan forces have been able to resupply and reinforce their troops only by air, or have had to fight their way through enemy territory.

The reinforcements for Kunduz, the first major city to fall to the Taliban after 14 years, were delayed by several days as the Taliban blocked the highway in Baghlan Province, south of Kunduz city. Afghan Army forces coming from the northern province of Balkh, as well as from Kabul, were repeatedly ambushed in Baghlan before they could reach Kunduz to begin an operation to retake the city.

On Monday, the Taliban managed to block the country’s biggest arterial road, Highway 1, for several hours in Ghazni Province, according to the deputy provincial governor, Mohamed Ali Ahmadi. “In one area, they had blown up the bridge; in other areas they tried to block the roads and use the traveling civilians as a shield,” Mr. Ahmadi said.

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Why Kunduz Is Critical to the Taliban

The Taliban’s takeover of the northern Afghan city of Kunduz gives the insurgency control over a crucial corridor, and potential to further its reach.

By EMMA COTT on Publish Date October 2, 2015.

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The districts around the city of Ghazni have come under repeated assault in recent weeks, as the insurgents, bolstered by the fall of Kunduz, seem to be moving to a strategy of focusing on major cities. Many officials fear that Ghazni, long vulnerable with pockets of insurgency in several districts, could be one of the next targets for the Taliban.

Mr. Ahmadi said that the roads to several districts were blocked and people’s movement in the city limited, but that reinforcements, both from the army as well as police special forces, had arrived in the province.

“There is a threat, without a doubt,” Mr. Ahmadi said. “They have attacked 15 of our checkposts, but we have been able to resupply our soldiers on time and had set up several ambushes. Therefore the enemy could not make any progress or overrun any check post.”

The United Nations said that a member of the group’s mission in southern Kandahar Province, Toorpaki Ulfat, was killed on Monday by gunmen riding on motorcycles.

Nicholas Haysom, the head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, described Ms. Ulfat, who had worked for the organization for five years, as “a respected human rights defender. Her commitment was not dimmed by the challenging security environment. She represented the best of what Afghan youth have to offer.”

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