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Afghan Forces Recapture Key Highway

FILE - Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard along the main highway linking Kabul to Kandahar, outside the capital, Aug. 2013.

Afghan Security forces have yet again taken control of the Kabul-Kandahar highway and opened it for traffic. Taliban militants had closed it earlier on Friday, leaving hundreds of vehicles stuck and thousands of people stranded.

The highway siege came as the Taliban withdrew from the northern city of Kunduz after weeks of intense fighting against Afghan troops backed by US airstrikes.

The highway connects the major Afghan cities of Kabul and Kandahar to many parts of the country and its blockade badly hurts economic activities in Afghanistan.

In a week’s time, highway’s control went from the Afghan security forces to Taliban and back to the security forces several times. While in control of the road, Taliban blew up some bridges and set up landmines along the way.

In interviews with VOA, Afghan security forces claim to have killed several dozen Taliban in their latest bid to recapture the control of the highway. The Kandahar police chief assured people that the forces are in full control of the road.

“The road is now open for people. Some of the bridges have been rebuilt. Ministry of Social Works and provincial government will work further on it,” said General Raziq, the police chief of Kandahar. Local residents are happy that security forces are finally in control of this major transit route.

“I came from Ghazni and there was no issue now. At the places where fighting had taken place those were also clear," an area resident told VOA. "At ten to twelve places, bridges were destroyed on the highway.”

Analysts say Taliban’s capture of Kunduz and blockade of Kabul-Kandahar highway, though short lived and intermittent, demonstrates its ability to strike outside its main heartlands in the south and east of the country.