Petraeus: Special Forces fighting Taliban in Kunduz

Petraeus: Special Forces fighting Taliban in Kunduz
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U.S. Special Forces are on the ground with Afghan commandos in Kunduz, where the Taliban have launched an offensive to take the city, former CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus said Monday morning.

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"I have been assured by some individuals on the ground at quite a high-level that there are U.S. Special Forces with, supporting Afghan commandos and that they believe that they have that in control," Petraeus said Monday morning at the Brookings Institution.

Taliban fighters pushed into the northern Afghan city of Kunduz early Monday and took control of a central intersection, according to local reports. 

It was a replay of the insurgent group's success almost one year ago exactly, when it took control of the city and prompted the U.S. to accidentally bomb a Doctors Without Borders hospital on Oct. 3, 2015, sparking outcry from humanitarian groups.  

Taliban fighters attacked the governor's compound and police headquarters, sending some officials fleeing to the airport. 

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan tweeted earlier Monday, "Our #AFG partners are responding to increased Taliban activity in #Kunduz & US forces have multiple assets & enablers within area to support," but did not offer further details.

Petraeus, who spoke on a panel with former U.S. ambassadors to Afghanistan, acknowledged that the situation has "deteriorated in recent years."

He noted that U.S. forces helped to halt the momentum of the Taliban and to develop the nation’s security forces and other institutions.

"But all of these have come under increasing pressure by the Taliban and associated groups...who do not want the government to succeed," Petraeus, who served as the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said.  

"We believe the next administration should make an enduring commitment to Afghanistan and our partners there," he added. "We should not have to go through the annual reviews and see how you're going to draw down."

There are currently about 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, slated drop to 8,400 by the end of the year.

President Obama had originally planned to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country to 5,400 before 2017, but he reconsidered when Taliban forces regained ground after NATO ended its combat mission in 2014.

Obama also relaxed rules of engagement to allow U.S. forces to give Afghan forces fighting the Taliban close air support, which had largely ended after 2014.

Petraeus called the current situation in Afghanistan "fraught" and "concerning."

He recommended allowing U.S. forces in the country to have more war fighting authorities to push back the Taliban.

Former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins; former Ambassadors to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann and James Cunningham; and Brookings Institution senior fellow Michael O'Hanlon also spoke on the panel, discussing a paper they authored earlier this month on creating an enduring U.S.-Afghan partnership.

The Taliban have also stepped up attacks in southern Afghanistan and are threatening the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.