U.S. airstrikes hit Taliban positions overnight around a key northern city seized by insurgents this week as Afghan troops massed on the ground Wednesday ahead of what is likely to be a protracted battle to retake Kunduz.

Also overnight, fierce fighting was underway for control of Kunduz’s airport, a few kilometers (miles) outside the city, before the Taliban retreated under fire, several residents said.

U.S. Army spokesman, Col. Brian Tribus, said there were two new airstrikes and that U.S. and NATO coalition advisers were at the scene “in the Kunduz area, advising Afghan security forces.”

Among NATO experts backing Afghan troops were coalition’s special forces advisers, he said.

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