Taliban captures Kandahar, Herat in Afghanistan blitz

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The Taliban captured 2 large Afghan cities, the country’s second- and third-largest aft Kabul, and a strategical provincial superior connected Thursday, further squeezing the embattled authorities conscionable weeks earlier the extremity of the American subject ngo successful Afghanistan.

The seizure of Kandahar and Herat marks the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban, who person taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals arsenic portion of a week-long blitz.

The seizure of the metropolis of Ghazni, meanwhile, cuts disconnected a important road linking the Afghan capital, Kabul, with the country’s confederate provinces, each portion of an insurgent propulsion immoderate 20 years aft U.S. and NATO troops invaded and ousted the Taliban government.

While Kabul itself isn’t straight nether menace yet, the losses and the battles elsewhere further tighten the grip of a resurgent Taliban, who are estimated to present clasp implicit two-thirds of the state and proceed to property their offensive.

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With information rapidly deteriorating, the United States planned to nonstop successful 3,000 troops to assistance evacuate immoderate unit from the U.S. Embassy successful Kabul. Separately, Britain said astir 600 troops would beryllium deployed connected a short-term ground to enactment British nationals leaving the country.

Thousands of Afghans person fled their homes amid fears the Taliban volition again enforce a brutal, repressive government, each but eliminating women’s rights and conducting nationalist amputations, stonings and executions. Peace talks successful Qatar stay stalled, though diplomats met passim the day.

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The latest U.S. subject quality appraisal suggests Kabul could travel nether insurgent unit wrong 30 days and that, if existent trends hold, the Taliban could summation afloat power of the state wrong a fewer months. The Afghan authorities whitethorn yet beryllium forced to propulsion backmost to support the superior and conscionable a fewer different cities successful the coming days if the Taliban support up their momentum.

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The onslaught represents a stunning illness of Afghan forces and renews questions astir wherever the implicit $830 cardinal spent by the U.S. Defense Department connected fighting, grooming those troops, and reconstruction efforts went — particularly arsenic Taliban fighters thrust connected American-made Humvees and pickup trucks with M-16s slung crossed their shoulders.

Afghan information forces and the authorities person not responded to repeated questions from journalists implicit the days of fighting, alternatively issuing video communiques that downplay the Taliban advance.

In Herat, Taliban fighters rushed past the Great Mosque successful the historical metropolis — which dates to 500 BC and was erstwhile a spoil of Alexander the Great — and seized authorities buildings. Witnesses described proceeding sporadic gunfire astatine 1 authorities gathering portion the remainder of the metropolis fell soundless nether the insurgents’ control.

Herat had been nether militant onslaught for 2 weeks, with 1 question blunted by the accomplishment of warlord Ismail Khan and his forces. But connected Thursday afternoon, Taliban fighters broke done the city’s antiaircraft lines and aboriginal said they were successful control.

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Afghan lawmaker Semin Barekzai besides acknowledged the city’s fall, saying that immoderate officials determination had escaped. Witnesses described seeing Taliban fighters once-detained astatine Herat’s situation present freely moving connected the streets.

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It wasn’t instantly wide what happened to Khan, who earlier had been described arsenic nether onslaught with his forces astatine a authorities building.

In Kandahar, the Taliban seized the governor’s bureau and different buildings, witnesses said. The politician and different officials fled the onslaught, catching a formation to Kabul, the witnesses added. They declined to beryllium named publically arsenic the decision has yet to beryllium acknowledged by the government.

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The Taliban had earlier attacked a situation successful Kandahar and freed inmates inside, officials said.

Earlier Thursday, the militants raised their achromatic flags imprinted with an Islamic proclamation of religion implicit the metropolis of Ghazni, conscionable 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Kabul.

Ghazni provincial assembly subordinate Amanullah Kamrani alleged that the provincial politician and constabulary main made a woody with the Taliban to fly aft surrendering. Taliban video and photos purported to amusement the governor’s convoy freely passing by insurgents arsenic portion of the deal.

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Afghan Interior Ministry spokesperson Mirwais Stanekzai aboriginal said the politician and his deputies had been arrested implicit that alleged deal. The officials could not beryllium instantly reached for comment.

Stanekzai besides acknowledged successful a video connection that parts of Ghanzi had fallen, though helium insisted authorities information forces “do exist” successful the city.

The nonaccomplishment of Ghazni — which sits on the Kabul-Kandahar Highway — could complicate resupply and question for authorities forces, arsenic good arsenic compression the superior from the south.

Already, the Taliban’s weeklong blitz has seen the militants prehend 9 different provincial capitals astir the country. Many are successful the country’s northeast corner, pressuring Kabul from that absorption arsenic well.

In confederate Afghanistan, the Taliban’s heartland, dense warring continued successful Lashkar Gah, wherever surrounded authorities forces hoped to clasp onto the superior of Helmand province.

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Nasima Niazi, a lawmaker from Helmand, criticized ongoing airstrikes targeting the area, saying civilians apt had been wounded and killed.

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“The Taliban utilized civilian houses to support themselves, and the government, without paying immoderate attraction to civilians, carried retired airstrikes,” she said.

With the Afghan aerial powerfulness constricted and successful disarray, aviation tracking information suggested U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers, F-15 combatant jets, drones and different craft were progressive successful the warring crossed the country, according to Australia-based information steadfast The Cavell Group.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Nicole Ferrara, a Central Command spokeswoman, acknowledged that American forces “have conducted respective airstrikes successful defence of our Afghan partners successful caller days.” However, she declined to connection immoderate details connected the attacks oregon to sermon the Afghan complaints of civilian casualties.

Late Thursday night, an Afghan official, speaking connected information of anonymity to sermon developments, said the Taliban person besides taken overmuch of occidental Badghis state — but not the provincial service corps and the quality department. A Taliban tweet claimed the insurgents captured the spot of the provincial governor, the constabulary office and each different authorities offices.

Even arsenic diplomats met successful Doha, Qatar connected Thursday, the occurrence of the Taliban violative called into question whether they would ever rejoin long-stalled bid talks aimed astatine moving Afghanistan toward an medication that includes members of the existent Afghan authorities and the Taliban. Instead, the radical could travel to powerfulness by unit — oregon the state could splinter into factional warring similar it did aft the Soviet withdrawal successful 1989.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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