Afghan officials: 3 more provincial capitals fall to Taliban

Afghan officials: 3 more provincial capitals fall to Taliban


KABUL: The Taliban seized three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan and a local army headquarters in a blitz across the country’s northeast, officials said Wednesday, with the insurgents now controlling some two-thirds of the nation as the US and NATO finalise their withdrawal after its decades-long war there.
The fall of the capitals of Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces to the northeast and Farah province to the west put increasing pressure on the country’s central government to stem the tide of the advance, even as its lost a major base in Kunduz.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rushed to Balkh province, already surrounded by Taliban-held territory, to seek help pushing back the insurgents from warlords linked to allegations of atrocities and corruption.
While Kabul itself has not been directly threatened in the advance, its stunning speed raises questions of how long the Afghan government can maintain control of its countryside.
The multiple fronts of the battle have stretched the government’s special operations forces — while regular troops have often fled the battlefield — and the violence has pushed thousands of civilians to seek safety in the capital. The US military, which plans to complete its withdrawal by the end of the month, has conducted some airstrikes but largely has avoided involving itself in the ground campaign.
The Afghan government and military did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the losses.
Humayoon Shahidzada, a lawmaker from the western province of Farah, confirmed Wednesday to The Associated Press his province’s capital of the same name fell. Neighboring Nimroz province was overrun in recent days after a weeklong campaign by the Taliban.
In Farah, Taliban fighters dragged the shoeless, bloody corpse of one Afghan security force member through the street, shouting: “God is great!” Taliban fighters carrying M-16 rifles and driving Humvees and Ford pickup trucks donated by the Americans rolled through the streets of the capital.
“The situation is under control in the city, our mujahedeen are patrolling in the city,” one Taliban fighter who did not give his name said, referring to his fellow insurgents as “holy warriors.”
The crackle of automatic weapon fire continued throughout the day in Farah.
Hujatullah Kheradmand, a lawmaker from Badakhshan, said the Taliban had seized his province’s capital, Faizabad. An Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak about an unacknowledged loss, said Baghlan’s capital, Poli-Khumri, also fell.
The insurgents earlier captured six other provincial capitals in the country in less than a week, including Kunduz in Kunduz province — a significant gain and one of the country’s largest cities.
On Wednesday, the headquarters of the Afghan National Army’s 217th Corps at Kunduz airport fell to the Taliban, according to Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a provincial council member in Kunduz, and lawmaker Shah Khan Sherzad.
The insurgents posted video online they said showed surrendering troops. The corps is one of seven across the army and its loss represents a major setback. It wasn’t immediately clear what equipment was left behind for the insurgents.
Some civilians who have fled Taliban advances have said that the insurgents imposed repressive restrictions on women and burned down schools. There have also been reports of revenge killings in areas where the Taliban have gained control.
Speaking to journalists Tuesday, a senior EU official said the insurgents held some 230 districts of the over 400 in Afghanistan. The official described another 65 in government control while the rest were contested. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal figures.





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