KABUL -- The Taliban's ongoing attempts to seize control of Afghanistan's main cities expose the group's lies about its intentions, Afghan officials say.
A spokesman for Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi claimed in a July 13 Twitter post that the militant group does not intend to target cities.
But the Taliban's actions over the past several weeks show the group's true intentions when it comes to taking over Afghanistan by force, officials say.
The Taliban's claim is a big lie, said Ahmad Zia Zia, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
He pointed to the Taliban's recent attempts to overrun the provincial capitals of Baghlan and Badghis before being thwarted by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and suffering heavy casualties in the process.
On Monday (August 2), Afghan forces battled Taliban militants following weekend offensives by the insurgents on urban centres in a sharp escalation.
Taliban fighters assaulted at least three provincial capitals overnight -- Lashkargah, Kandahar and Herat -- after a weekend of heavy fighting that saw thousands of civilians flee the advancing militants.
Fighting raged in Helmand's provincial capital Lashkargah, where the Taliban launched coordinated attacks on the city centre and its prison -- just hours after the government announced the deployment of hundreds of commandos to the area.
"We are reassuring our people that the ANDSF have the capability and commitment to defend their country against any destructive terrorist acts," Zia said.
Afghans reject Taliban
Shirin Mohseni, a member of the Wolesi Jirga from Daikundi province, also refuted the Taliban's claims.
"We have witnessed recent Taliban attacks on a number of cities and provincial capitals that were thwarted," she said, referring to failed assaults on the provincial capitals of Sar-e-Pul, Ghazni and Faryab.
The Taliban have failed to capture any cities, she said, adding that this is partly because the government is determined to defend provincial capitals, and partly because the public has expressed its readiness to defend its own cities.
"The people are fully prepared to stand up to this terrorist group, given the atrocities it has committed," she said. "We must be cautious, because if the Taliban build their capability, I am sure they will not hesitate to launch attacks."
City dwellers want no return of the Taliban regime, Mohseni said, adding that the militant group "is not acceptable to the people, and those living in the cities will resist" any comeback attempt.
Afghans have demonstrated their support for the ANDSF and have stepped up to repel the Taliban themselves, she said.
The Taliban do not have the ability to capture cities, and their claim of not wanting to attack them is mere propaganda designed to influence the public's perception of them, said Kabul-based security analyst and retired military officer Atiqullah Amarkhil.
"One thing that has become clear is that the Taliban will never deliver what they commit themselves to doing," he said.
The Taliban tried in earnest to take the provincial capitals of Jawzjan, Takhar and Badghis but were defeated, he said.
Their actions are no different from those of the Taliban regime from 20 years ago, Amarkhil said, adding that they want Afghans to live in the same primitive way.
The Taliban is not taking into account, however, that city dwellers do not want to replace the republic, the achievements of the last 20 years or their freedoms with the absolute rule of the Taliban, he said.
Civilians are determined to support the ANDSF, he added, referring to recent public uprising movements.
"We have recently witnessed mobilisation of resources and the formation of uprising movements, particularly in the north, where public uprising forces joined the ANDSF and pushed back Taliban attacks on several cities," he said.
No return to 'dark days'
Afghans, especially youth, want to see Afghanistan progress and develop, said Ahmad Behruz, a political analyst in Kabul.
"We have made tangible achievements over the past two decades," he said, pointing out that the establishment of universities, schools and independent media outlets has contributed to the development of knowledge and wisdom.
Afghan youth are aware of global progress thanks to the internet, he said. They want Afghanistan to move forward, but they know the Taliban still live by the same extremist ideology as they did in the past.
A Taliban return would be a nightmare that would result only in the destruction of infrastructure and would push Afghanistan back to the dark days of 20 years ago, said Kabul resident Masuda Zia, a spokeswoman for a government agency.
"I spared no efforts to complete my studies at university level," she said, adding that she hopes to obtain her master's degree to better serve her fellow Afghans.
The Taliban's potential comeback would ruin her dreams of a bright future, she said.
"Nobody wants to live under the barbaric Taliban rule and flag," Zia said.