Tenth Provincial Capital Falls To The Taliban

The militant group has rapidly advanced through the country since Friday

Ghazni is the latest provincial capital to fall to the Taliban. Ghazni, capital of Ghazni province and at 130km southwest of Afghan capital, Kabul, is a strategic city on the major Kabul-Kandahar motorway. It is reported that the Taliban have taken most of the city, with only a police base on the outskirts of Ghazni controlled by the Afghan forces.

A senior security official, who declined to be identified, has told Reuters news agency that “all local government officials, including the provincial governor, have been evacuated towards Kabul.” The Washington Post newspaper yesterday cited some US officials that are claiming that Kabul could fall to the Taliban within 90 days.

The Taliban have captured 10 out of 34 provincial capitals in the country and are now battling to control the city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, the city of Kandahar, the capital in Kandahar province. Insurgents claim to have taken over Kandahar’s prison, though it is not confirmed, while in Lashkar Gah have taken the police headquarters.

So far, the Taliban offensive has taken more than 65% of the territory, killed more than 3.000 people nationwide, and forcefully displaced more than 300.000 in the last months, according to the Afghan Foreign Minister, Mohammad Haneef Atmar. World Health Organization’s regional emergency director, Rick Brennan, has estimated that at least 18.4 million people require humanitarian assistance.

The loss of Ghazni represents a further strain on the already-tired Afghan security forces. The situation is getting more complicated for the military since their commandos and forces are dispatched to the six other provinces whose capital has fallen, namely Farah, Badakhshan, Baghlan, Samangan, Kunduz, Takhar, Jawzjan, Sar-e-Pul, Nimruz.

The Afghan forces can be further stretched because the Taliban has said that they were moving on Mazar-i-Sharif, which is northern Afghanistan’s largest city. The loss of this city would represent the complete collapse of the Afghan government in the north of the territory. Nevertheless, Afghan forces have tried to push back the Taliban’s advance, by “alleging to have killed more than 500 members of the armed group”, Al Jazeera’s Arwa Ibrahim and Mersiha Gadzo say.

The warfare is rapidly turning into a much bloodier fight for the country since now the Taliban are moving quickly to the cities. This urban warfare is putting in a difficult position the Afghan government that in order to protect its own civilians is being pushed to increase human casualties when attacking the militant group.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has flown to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to try to rally pro-government forces and build up the defense of the city with ethnic Uzbek warlord, Abdul Rashid Dostum, and prominent ethnic Tajik leader, Atta Mohammad Noor.

It’s their country to defend now

The conflict between the Taliban and Afghan forces has intensified as the date of withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan gets close. US forces are deeply concerned about the evolution of the warfare, but confident that the Afghan government will be able to fight the Taliban.

Today is the last and third day of the international talks in Doha, Qatar, to try to build an international response and warn the Taliban not to pursue a military victory. Diplomats from the US, the UK, the EU, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, the UN, and Afghanistan have shown how important is to put a hold on the scaling up of tensions.

“The sense that we are getting from all the diplomats is that they are extremely concerned about what’s been going on in Afghanistan and they are trying to come up with some type of joint plan in order to get the situation under control”, has said Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Doha.

A government source has told Al Jazeera that the Afghan government has offered the Taliban a share in power if the rising violence comes to a halt. The proposal was delivered through Qatar, according to Al Jazeera’s Ali M Latifi, reporting from Kabul.

Amid the advance of the Taliban, the US is showing no signs of stepping up air attacks, with Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, saying “that Washington now sees the fight as one for Afghan political and military leaders to win or lose”, reports Al Jazeera. The US has been launching a handful of air attacks a day on the Taliban, but officials say that there is no order to increase them.

It is still not known whether the Biden administration will continue the air attacks past the withdrawal. In the meantime, the US “will continue to support them… where and when feasible, understanding that it’s not always going to be feasible,″ Kirby has stated. This help could be in the form of more financial and logistical support to the Afghan military after the withdrawal.

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