Taliban seize fourth-most significant city, closing in on the Afghan capital Kabul

Mazar-e-Sharif, the fourth-major town in Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban on Saturday after a multipronged assault launched by insurgents, according to a lawmaker.

Balkh lawmaker Abas Ebrahimzada mentioned the province’s nationwide army corps surrendered very first, which prompted the professional-federal government militias and other forces to lose morale and give up in the deal with of the onslaught.

According to the lawmaker, all of the provincial installations, which includes the governor’s office, are in Taliban hands.

The insurgents have captured significantly of northern, western and southern Afghanistan in a breakneck offensive much less than 3 months right before the US is established to withdraw its last troops, elevating fears of a comprehensive militant takeover or a further Afghan civil war.

The Taliban have created important advances in new days, together with capturing Herat and Kandahar, the country’s next- and 3rd-major towns. They now command about 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving the Western-backed federal government with a smattering of provinces in the centre and east, as nicely as Kabul.

The Taliban also seized a province just south of Afghanistan’s funds as it ongoing its sweeping military services gains on Saturday early morning.

They have been closing in on Kabul, and on Saturday an official from Logar province, Hoda Ahmadi, claimed the spot just 11 kilometres from the cash had been captured and its provincial officials detained.

The withdrawal of international forces and the swift retreat of Afghanistan’s individual troops — even with hundreds of billions of pounds in US support over the years — has elevated fears the Taliban could return to energy, or the state could descend into civil war.

The first Marines from a contingent of 3,000 arrived on Friday to assistance partially evacuate the US Embassy.

The relaxation are established to get there by Sunday, and their deployment has raised thoughts about no matter if the administration will meet up with its August 31 withdrawal deadline.

The Taliban meanwhile produced a online video saying the takeover of the key radio station in the southern city of Kandahar, renaming it the Voice of Sharia, or Islamic regulation.

Taliban advance at alarming pace

The Taliban’s progress in Afghanistan continued at an alarming rate on Friday as three vital cities in the south were being wrested from the command of Afghan federal government forces.

On Thursday the militant Islamist organisation took about the country’s 2nd and third-premier cities, Kandahar and Herat, in just 12 several hours of every other.

Fighters stormed the citadel and police HQ in Herat, even though video clips posted on the net confirmed gunfire in the streets and militants celebrating in the deserted governor’s place of work. Condition protection forces’ cars were noticed leaving Kandahar on Thursday as the city was overrun.

On Friday, an Afghan official confirmed the Taliban had also captured Lashkar Gah, the cash of the southern province of Helmand. The head of the provincial council clarified that 3 army bases outdoors the city had been nonetheless in procedure.

The Taliban now controls more than a third of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals. The onslaught began immediately after the withdrawal of US troops from the state and progressed with astonishing velocity, whilst intra-Afghan talks aimed at a ceasefire stalled in the Qatari money of Doha.

Thousands of Afghans in the north have vacated their homes and are living in tents, fearing the return of a brutally repressive routine. On Friday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the state was “spinning out of manage”.

“Even as state that has tragically recognised generations of conflict,” Guterres claimed, “Afghanistan is in the throes of but one more chaotic and determined chapter, an remarkable tragedy for its extensive-suffering individuals.

“Continued city conflict will necessarily mean continued carnage, with civilians paying the best cost. I remind all get-togethers… attacks against civilians is a critical violation of global humanitarian legislation and quantities to a war criminal offense.”

He extra: “It is especially horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard received rights of Afghan ladies and women getting ripped absent from them.”

Provincial capitals overrun by Islamist militants

The quick Taliban advance across Afghanistan has noticed fighters seize a lot more than 12 important metropolitan areas in the place of a 7 days, using about significant swathes of the north and west and progressively encircling the money of Kabul.

Afghan parliamentarians in the southern province of Uruzgan claimed officials experienced surrendered its capital, Tirin Kot, the place Taliban fighters paraded by the major square in Humvees and pickup trucks.

Qalat, the cash of Zabul province, also fell. Provincial council main Atta Jan Haqbayan told reporters officers had been in a nearby army camp, making ready to depart.

In the west, Feroz Koh, the funds town of Ghor province, was also taken more than by insurgents. Taliban forces also captured the southeastern town of Ghazni on Thursday, arresting the governor along with his deputy and chief of staff members when armed officers patrolled the streets.

The takeover of Ghazni cuts off a very important freeway backlink amongst Kabul and the south. The cash is nonetheless underneath the command of the Western-backed Afghan federal government but US officials anticipate Kabul to occur underneath assault within the subsequent 30 days.

Area warlord captured US presses on with retreat

In Herat, Taliban fighters could be seen rushing part the city’s Terrific Mosque and seizing governing administration structures. The town had been beneath attack for two months, with one wave deflected by the arrival of warlord Ismail Khan, acknowledged as the ‘Lion of Herat’, and his forces.

The Afghan government relies closely on regional strongmen for defense in some components of the region. But on Thursday afternoon, Taliban fighters broke via the city’s defensive lines.

On Friday the Taliban verified it experienced arrested the 70-calendar year-old Khan along with quite a few of his best aides. A Taliban official was filmed talking to Khan in his dwelling and offering him security assurance.

The insurgents also circulated movies that appeared to clearly show Taliban fighters experienced taken possession of two Afghan military Black Hawk helicopters – furnished by the US – at Herat province’s Shindand Airbase.

Somewhere else in Kunduz in the north of the country, militants are understood to have seized a hundred US Humvees and armoured vehicles, as properly as numerous US reconnaissance drones.

The US even now options to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by August 31, ending a 20-12 months presence in the region that began with the ousting of the Taliban from electricity in the aftermath of 9/11. But John Kirby, the Pentagon’s push secretary, explained on Thursday that Washington would mail 3,000 troops to evacuate staff from the US embassy in Kabul.

“The initial motion will consist of a few infantry battalions at the moment in the Central Command space of duty,” he mentioned. The very first US troops commenced landing at Kabul Airport on Friday afternoon.

Separately, the United kingdom explained about 600 troops would be deployed on a brief-phrase basis to assist British nationals leaving the place. News that the Taliban had captured Lashkar Gah in Helmand came as a blow the bulk of the UK’s 457 casualties transpired in this province, the place the Camp Bastion intricate served as its base of operations from 2006 to 2014.

On Friday Uk Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended an emergency Cobra conference on Afghanistan. He told reporters afterwards that he considered there could be no “armed forces option”.

“I assume the Uk can be very proud of what has been finished in Afghanistan in excess of the previous 20 many years,” he stated. “Don’t overlook that the beat mission finished in 2014.

“We have acquired to be real looking about the abilities of the Uk or any ability to impose a battle answer in Afghanistan. What we undoubtedly can do is perform with all our partners… who share an interest with us in preventing Afghanistan from when once again turning into a breeding floor for terror.”

Hopes for diplomatic option are bit by bit fading

1000’s of Afghans have fled to Kabul as their final refuge in current months. Displaced family members have packed into tents in makeshift camps around the funds, where by the Entire world Foodstuff Programme has explained food items shortages in the funds as “dire”.

According to the UN Refugee Company, some 80 per cent of the 241,000 people who have fled their properties given that the close of Might ended up women and youngsters. Between July 1 and August 12, the UN confirmed 10,350 internally displaced folks who experienced arrived in Kabul.

The Taliban has a brutal record of brutal repression of civilians and human legal rights violations, primarily in opposition to females. When the Islamist team was in electricity in the 1990s ladies ended up barred from attending college and the Taliban meted out medieval punishments like stoning for adultery.

For the earlier 20 years lots of Afghans experienced worked to construct up fledgling civil society establishments together with charities and NGOs. But due to the fact the resurgence started sections of this fragile architecture have been wiped out right away.

In late June stories surfaced that some gals aged in between 15 and 40 ended up remaining forcibly married to Taliban insurgents in some Taliban-held locations.

Ladies have also been barred from leaving their homes without having a male escort. In Kabul, Afghans who fled the northern Takhar province claimed ladies had been stopped and lashed for wearing “revealing sandals”.

Pashtana Durrani, director of the Kandahar-based nonprofit LEARNAfg, which advocates for girls’ education and learning, explained on Thursday the principal from the community college she worked with had fled and her students would no for a longer time be capable to get to school.

“My team is caught in Kandahar,” she wrote on Twitter. “My relatives, relatives, trapped in Kandahar. I am praying almost nothing happens to the persons I keep so expensive. The federal government ought to be ashamed to have allow this transpire… I am crying and crying.”

Herat-primarily based women’s rights activist Zarmina Kakar said she and her 5 siblings had concealed in the residence on Thursday night as the Taliban swept in the metropolis, planting white flags emblazoned with the Islamic proclamation of faith in a central square.

Speaking to AP on Friday, Kakar, 26, recalled a time when her mother took her out to purchase her ice cream in the 1990s less than Taliban rule. Her mom was whipped by a Taliban militant for revealing her experience for a pair of minutes.

“Today yet again,” she stated, “I feel that if Taliban appear to ability, we will return again to the exact same dark times.”

The Afghan government’s state-owned Bakhtar Information Agency reported that just after Kandahar was taken above on Thursday, Taliban gunmen entered the head offices of Azizi Bank and ordered 9 women doing work there to leave.

Fereshteh Forough, the founder of Afghanistan’s first coding and net enhancement college for gals, posted screenshots of messages from her students on a shared WhatsApp group.

“We just remaining our dwelling,” one particular wrote. “My brothers and father are there. The scenario is really concerning.” A different wrote: “The worst noise in the world is the sound of war.”

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