Amid the increasing violence in Afghanistan, the fighting between the Afghan dforces and Taliban continues in the outskirts of Kandhar city.
The Kandahar province of Afghanistan has been the theatre of fierce fighting since the insurgents took control of the key Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan earlier this month.
“Every single day the fighting is getting closer and closer to the centre of the city,” Sarwary reported.
“We know that the Taliban have warned residents and have given some neighbourhoods time to leave their homes in a matter of hours,” Sarwary said, “people continue to abandon their homes and livelihoods and move from one part of the city to another.”
“People are finding fighting on their doorsteps, on their streets, they simply have nowhere to go,” Sarwary added.
A symbolic city
The fight for Kandahar is also a microcosm of the battle for the rest of the country.
The fall of the city would be a disaster for the government, splitting the country into two before winter, when retaking lost territory is particularly difficult.
Thousands of people from elsewhere in the province have made their way by car, bus, truck and on foot to Kandahar this week, and many are staying at displaced people’s camps in the city.
Local officials said more than 150,000 had arrived just this month.
Humanitarian organisations have warned of a major crisis in coming months as the Taliban continue to gain territory in the sweeping offensive that began with the withdrawal of US and Nato troops from the country after 20 years of occupation.
Government forces have abandoned some rural districts without a fight, but are digging in to defend provincial capitals, including Kandahar, even as the insurgents tighten a noose around the cities.
Where the Taliban take over without a fight, particularly in deeply conservative rural areas, life continues much as before.
But in more developed parts defended by government troops, civilians are being forced to flee to escape often brutal clashes.
The US military has launched more than a dozen airstrikes in the past week in support of Afghan government forces in their fight against the Taliban The air strikes have been launched in a number of regions in the country but a key focus has been around Kandahar.
The UN refugee agency says hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been displaced internally this year alone, and warns that unless the fighting stops, the crisis could spill over to Afghanistan’s neighbours.
Pakistan and Iran, in particular, are home to millions of Afghan refugees who fled the decade-long Soviet occupation and the Taliban regime in the 1990s.
On Wednesday in the province, comedian Nazar Mohammad, better known as Khasha Zwan, was killed by two men later identified by a Taliban spokesperson as belonging to the group.
Mohammad was beaten and shot multiple times. The spokesman said the men have been arrested and will be tried.
The fear of revenge has driven as many as 18,000 Afghans who worked for the US military to apply for Special Immigration Visas to the United States. In Washington and in NATO capitals there is a growing demand to evacuate Afghans who worked with the military.