The Taliban also captured the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. It is the second largest city in the country after the capital, Kabul, and was previously the unofficial capital of the Taliban before Western forces overthrew the radical Islamic movement at the beginning of this century.
Local authorities confirm the seizure. After heavy fighting last night, the Taliban took control of Kandahar, a local government official told Reuters news agency. Kandahar airport is still in government hands.
Dutch F-16s have been operating for a while during international missions from Kandahar, where there is an important airport. Kandahar is also close to Tarin Kowt, the capital of Uruzgan province, where Dutch soldiers were stationed between 2006 and 2010. There, too, the Taliban are said to be on the verge of capturing the city.
Kandahar was also the second largest US military base during their 20-year mission. President Joe Biden had just planned to withdraw his forces in a few weeks, but tonight he sent 3,000 troops to the region to help with the partial evacuation of embassy staff, where about 1,400 people are stationed. Meanwhile, US negotiators are asking the Taliban to spare the embassy, the New York Times reports. Three officials told the newspaper that the negotiators wanted assurances from the extremists that they would not attack the embassy if they sought foreign help if they took over the entire country.
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Fighting is taking place in many places in Afghanistan. It was announced Friday (local time) that the Taliban had captured the city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province. Sources told AFP that military and government officials evacuated the city after signing an agreement with the militants. On Thursday, control of Herat, the country’s third largest city, and the provincial capital, Ghazni, was announced. Ghazni is located 150 kilometers southwest of Kabul.
Progress has been rapid: within weeks, 12 of the country’s 34 provincial capitals are now in Taliban hands. US intelligence agencies have reported that the capital, Kabul, could fall within 30 days if fighting continues at this pace, and the Taliban may take full control within a few months, the Associated Press reported. Prisons in several cities were attacked and imprisoned Taliban fighters were released.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken discussed the situation in the country with Canada, Germany and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The UN Security Council is preparing a statement condemning the Taliban’s advance and threatening sanctions for “endangering the stability of Afghanistan”.
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