The Soviet Union met Monday's deadline to remove half its troops from Afghanistan, and heavy fighting was reported at a major town that was captured last week by rebel forces after the evacuation of Soviet forces.
"As of Aug. 14, 50 percent of the Soviet troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan," the official Soviet news agency Tass quoted the commander-in-chief of Soviet forces in Afghanistan as saying Sunday in the dispatch monitored in Moscow."At present, there is now not a single troop in 25 of 31 Afghan provinces," Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov said during a 90-minute news conference in Kabul.
Gromov said Moslem guerrillas had "penetrated" and "are now controlling" the northeastern town of Kunduz, and he said Afghan forces alone would be responsible for recapturing the town of 30,000.
Kunduz is one of the first major cities to have been captured by the rebels, who lost control of two key towns captured earlier.
Gromov implied Kunduz was taken because local authorities were "complacent" in allowing guerrillas to infiltrate the normally tranquil town. He said the rebels had not captured any military equipment and predicted Kabul's troops would eventually reoccupy the town.
"There is much bloodshed going on in Kunduz," said Gromov, 45. "The situation is truly very grave, but not so serious for Kunduz to remain in rebel hands."
Gromov denied reports that aircraft based in Soviet territory had bombed sections of Kunduz, which was captured last week by the rebels in an assault that capitalized on the vacuum left by the Wednesday withdrawal of the Soviet garrison.
Soviet General Lev Serebrov said some reporters would be flown to Kunduz on Thursday.
Soviet sources have said government troops hold only the airport in the town just 40 miles from Soviet territory, but were preparing an offensive to dislodge the fighters who apparently attacked it to seize large stockpiles of military materiel.
The rebels have not mounted large offensives on any major city since the signing April 14 of a peace pact calling for the withdrawal of Moscow's 115,000 troops.