According to Afghan officials, the Taliban have taken control of another provincial capital, the southern city of Kandahar in the same-named province.
Insurgents have captured the twelfth of Afghanistan‘s 34 provincial capitals in a weeklong assault that has swept over most of the nation. Kandahar is also the country’s second most populous city.
Kandahar fell on Thursday night, according to authorities, and government leaders and their entourage managed to evacuate to the airport and depart the city by plane.
To discuss the events, the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.
On Thursday, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s third-largest city and a crucial provincial capital near Kabul, putting more pressure on the country’s beleaguered government just weeks before the US military mission ends.
The Taliban have captured 11 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in a weeklong blitz, and Herat is their largest win yet.
Taliban insurgents stormed the ancient city’s Great Mosque, which dates back to 500 BC and was once a prize of Alexander the Great, and captured government buildings.
Witnesses said they heard intermittent gunshots from one government building while the rest of the city fell silent as the militants took control.
Meanwhile, the takeover of Ghazni cuts off a vital route that connects the Afghan capital with the country’s southern provinces, which are now under rebel attack 20 years after US and NATO soldiers invaded and toppled the Taliban regime.
While Kabul isn’t immediately threatened, the casualties and fights elsewhere have tightened the grip of a resurgent Taliban, who now control more than two-thirds of the nation and are pressuring government forces in several other provincial capitals.
With security worsening fast, the US is sending in 3,000 troops to assist with the evacuation of certain people from the US Embassy in Kabul.
One Army and two Marine infantry battalions will enter Afghanistan over the next two days, according to Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby, to assist with the partial embassy evacuation at Kabul airport.
Separately, the United Kingdom said that around 600 troops will be sent on a temporary basis to assist British people fleeing the country.
Thousands of Afghans have fled their homes, fearing that the Taliban would impose a cruel, authoritarian regime once more, robbing women of their rights and carrying out public amputations, stonings, and killings.
Despite diplomats meeting throughout the day, peace negotiations in Qatar remain deadlocked.
According to the most recent US military intelligence estimate, Kabul may be under insurgent attack within 30 days, and the Taliban might take full control of the nation within a few months if present trends continue.
If the Taliban maintain their momentum, the Afghan government may be compelled to draw back to protect only the capital and a few other cities in the coming days.
The assault marks a stunning defeat for Afghan forces, raising new questions about where the US Defense Department’s over USD 830 billion spent on fighting, training troops, and reconstruction efforts went — especially as Taliban fighters ride in American-made Humvees and pickup trucks, M-16s slung across their shoulders.
During the days of combat, Afghan security forces and the government have not replied to repeated inquiries from media, instead producing video communiques that play down the Taliban advance.
For two weeks, Herat had been under terrorist attack, with one wave of attacks thwarted by the entrance of warlord Ismail Khan and his men. Taliban militants, however, burst through the city’s defence lines on Thursday afternoon and subsequently claimed possession.
Semin Barekzai, an Afghan politician, also confirmed the city’s loss, claiming that some officials had left. Witnesses reported seeing Taliban fighters who had previously been imprisoned in Herat’s jail suddenly roaming the streets freely.
Khan had been portrayed as being under attack with his soldiers in a government facility, but it was unclear what had happened to him.