Taliban take control of another provincial capital as militants step up offensive

Islamist group has overrun a handful of cities in recent days

Rory Sullivan
Monday 09 August 2021 10:40
<p>Afghans inspect the damage caused by fighting between the Taliban and government forces in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, on 8 August, 2021.</p>

Afghans inspect the damage caused by fighting between the Taliban and government forces in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, on 8 August, 2021.

The Taliban have captured another provincial capital in Afghanistan, making it the fifth city to fall to the insurgents in a matter of days.

The militants’ successful offensive against Sar-e Pul comes as the US and NATO prepare to withdraw their last remaining forces from the country.

The northern city was overrun by the Taliban on Monday after weeks of fighting, according to Mohammad Noor Rahmani, the council chief of Sar-e Pul province.

The government’s forces have now completely withdrawn from the entire province and local militia commanders allied to Kabul have surrendered to the Islamist group, he added.

Footage posted on social media shows Taliban fighters celebrating their victory in front of the governor’s office in Sar-e Pul.

This latest development follows the capture of four other region capitals since Friday, when Zaranj in the southwestern province of Nimroz swapped hands.

The cities of Sheberghan and Taloqan, both in the north of Afghanistan, are now also under Taliban control, as is most of Kunduz, a key hub located close to the border with Tajikistan.

The insurgents are also close to taking Lashkar Gah, the main city in the southern Helmand province, where the US and Afghan armies have been conducting airstrikes against Taliban positions.

Although the militant group assured local residents and government workers in captured areas that they would be safe, reprisals have been reported, according to the AP news agency.

Elsewhere, the insurgents carried out a gun attack and suicide bombing in Kabul on Friday, which left 13 people dead and dozens injured. One victim was Dawa Khan Meenapal, the head of the government’s media and information centre, who was shot dead on his journey home from Friday prayers.

The Taliban’s territorial gains have accelerated since US president Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of his country’s troops after two decades in Afghanistan.

Experts have warned that the power vacuum left by this decision will favour the Taliban and bring more woe and uncertainty to a country beset by decades of war and instability.

The latest warning comes from a British general, who suggested that the current situation in Afghanistan will affect other parts of the world.

General Sir Richard Barrons said it was not in the interests of western powers to leave the country. “We will run the risk of terrorist entities re-establishing in Afghanistan to bring harm in Europe and elsewhere. So I think this is a very poor strategic outcome,” he told BBC Radio 4.

Additional reporting by AP

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