The US military carried out an airstrike on Tuesday on the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, which was captured by the Taliban the previous day in a major setback to the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. On the ground, Afghan forces are regrouping to try to take back this city of nearly 300,000 people—the first urban area seized by the Taliban since the 2001 US-led invasion that ousted their regime. The city fell Monday after hundreds of Taliban gunmen launched a coordinated, multipronged attack at several points around the city. After a day of fierce fighting, they managed to overrun government buildings and hoisted their flag in the city square.
The spokesman for the US and NATO missions in Afghanistan said the early morning airstrike was conducted "in order to eliminate a threat to the force"—though there were no foreign troops left inside the city. He didn't say whether more airstrikes would follow. Afghanistan has rushed military reinforcements to the region and started an operation to retake the city, according to a Defense Ministry statement. Officials say that during the Taliban assault on the city, the insurgents freed around 600 inmates—including 144 members of the Taliban—from a Kunduz prison. (Read more Kunduz, Afghanistan stories.)