Afghan officials: The Taliban own three more capitals


Afghan officials say three more provincial capitals belong to Taliban, leaving nine of 34 countries in rebel hands amid US withdrawal

The fall of the capitals of Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces in the northeast and Farah province in the west has increased pressure on the country’s central government to stop the tide of progress.

Although Kabul itself is not directly threatened in advance, the Taliban offensive continues to stretch Afghan security forces, which are now largely fighting the rebels on their own. A senior European Union official has already said that at least 65% of Afghanistan is held by rebels, and the government continues to lose ground.

The Afghan government and military did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rushed to the besieged province of Balkh on Wednesday to seek the support of two military leaders there to counter the Taliban’s advance.

Humayoon Shahidzada, an MP from Farah, confirmed to the Associated Press that his capital had fallen. Hujatullah Kheradmand, an envoy from Badakhshan, said the Taliban had taken over his province. An Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the unrecognized loss, said Baghlan’s capital had also fallen.

In Farah, Taliban fighters dragged a street, the bloody corpse of a member of the Afghan security forces, shouting, “God is great!” The shooting echoed down the street as Taliban fighters carrying M-16 rifles and driving American-donated Humvees and Ford trucks rolled through the streets of the eponymous capital.

The rebels had seized six other capitals in the country in less than a week, including Kunduz in Kunduz province – one of the country’s largest cities.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, a senior EU official said the rebels held about 230 districts out of more than 400 in Afghanistan. The official described another 65 under government control, while the rest were disputed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal figures.

Northeast Afghanistan has already largely belonged to the Taliban, with the exception of Balkh province. There, military leaders Rashid Dostum, Atta Mohammad Noor and Mohammad Mohaqiq planned to mobilize forces to support the Afghan government to suppress the Taliban. Ghani traveled there on Wednesday to seek their support.

After a twenty-year Western military mission and billions of dollars spent training and gathering Afghan forces, many are unable to explain why the regular forces failed, fleeing sometimes hundreds of battles. The fighting has mostly fallen on small groups of elite forces and the Afghan Air Force.

The success of the Taliban flash has added urgency to the need to resume long stalled talks in Qatar that could end fighting and move Afghanistan towards a comprehensive interim administration. The rebels have so far refused to return to the negotiating table.

U.S. Envoy for Peace Zalmay Khalilzad warned the Taliban on Tuesday that no government that comes to power by force in Afghanistan will be internationally recognized.

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in the north of the country to avoid the battles that have flooded their towns and villages. Families have flocked to the capital Kabul, living in parks and streets with little food or water.


Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


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