Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city, Mazar-e-Sharif, fell to the Taliban on Saturday following a multilateral strike by insurgents, according to a lawmaker.
Balkh MP Abbas Ibrahimzada said the province’s National Army corps surrendered first, prompting pro-government militias and other forces to lose morale and face an attack.
According to the legislator, all provincial establishments, including the governor’s office, are in the hands of the Taliban.
Insurgents have occupied much of northern, western and southern Afghanistan, less than three weeks after the US prepares to withdraw its last troops, raising fears of a full terrorist takeover or another Afghan civil war. has been
The Taliban have made great strides in recent days, including capturing Herat and Kandahar, the country’s second and third largest cities. They now control about 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving the western-backed government at the center and provinces in the east, as well as Kabul.
On Saturday the Taliban captured the entire Logar province, just south of the capital Kabuli, and detained local officials, said Hoda Ahmadi, a legislator from the province. He said the Taliban had reached Char Ayab district, just 11 kilometers (7 miles) south of Kabul.
According to Khalid Assad, a legislator from the province, the rebels also captured the capital of Paktika, which borders Pakistan. Fighting broke out in Sharana early Saturday, but ended after local elders negotiated a pullout, he said. He said the governor and other officials surrendered and were on their way to Kabul.
The Taliban also captured Maimana, the capital of northern Faryab province, said Fawzia Roufi, a lawmaker in the province. Maimana had been under siege for a month and Taliban fighters had entered the city a few days earlier.
He said the security forces finally surrendered on Saturday.
Syed Hussein Gerdezi, an MP from neighboring Paktia province, said the Taliban had captured most of its local capital, Gardez, but fighting with government forces was still on. The Taliban said they controlled the city.
afghan president Ashraf Ghani delivers speech on television Saturday, his first public appearance since the Taliban’s recent gains. He vowed not to give up on the “achievements” of the 20 years since the US toppled the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.
The US has continued peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar this week, and the international community has warned that a Taliban government brought in by force will be abandoned. But the rebels show little interest in making concessions as they win the battlefield.
“We have begun consultations with elders and political leaders within the government, representatives from different levels of the community, as well as our international partners,” Ghani said. “Soon the results will be shared with you,” he said without elaborating further.
The president went to Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday to hold a security rally in the city, meeting with several militia commanders, including Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammed Noor, who command thousands of fighters.
They remain allied with the government, but during the last round of fighting in Afghanistan, the warlords have been known to switch sides for the sake of their existence. Ismail Khan, a powerful former warlord who had tried to defend Herat, was captured by the Taliban when rebels captured the western city after two weeks of heavy fighting.
Thousands of Afghans have fled their homes fearing a return to the repressive Taliban regime. The group previously ruled Afghanistan under a stricter version of Islamic law that prohibited women from going to work or school, and could not leave their homes without a male relative accompanying them.
Salima Mazari, one of the country’s few female district governors, said she never considered surrendering.
“There will be no place for women,” said Mazari, who controls a district of 36,000 people near Mazar-i-Sharif. “There are no women anymore in the provinces under Taliban control, not even in the cities. They are all imprisoned in their homes.”
The withdrawal of foreign troops and the rapid collapse of Afghanistan’s own military – despite hundreds of billions of dollars in US aid over the years – have raised fears that the Taliban may return to power or the country may be torn apart by factional fighting, as it was in 1989. After the Soviet withdrawal. This has prompted many American and Afghan veterans of the conflict to question whether the two decades of blood and treasure were worth it.
Afghans have been heading to Kabul’s international airport in recent days, desperate to get out, even as more US troops have arrived to help partially evacuate the US embassy.