Taliban insurgents have seized Afghanistan’s second- and third-biggest cities as resistance from authorities forces crumbled, stoking fears that an assault on the capital Kabul could possibly be simply days away.
A authorities official confirmed that Kandahar, the financial hub of the south, was underneath Taliban management as worldwide forces full their withdrawal after 20 years of warfare.
Herat within the west additionally fell to the hardline Islamist group.
“The city looks like a frontline, a ghost town,” provincial council member Ghulam Habib Hashimi mentioned by phone from Herat, a metropolis of about 600,000 individuals close to the border with Iran.
“Families have either left or are hiding in their homes.”
A senior U.S. defence official mentioned there was concern that the Taliban – ousted from energy by U.S-led forces in 2001 after the 9/11 assaults on the United States – may make a transfer on Kabul in days.
But Washington hoped the Afghan safety forces would put up extra resistance as the insurgents transfer nearer to the capital.
Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh mentioned he was happy with the nation’s armed forces.
“It was decided with conviction & resolve that WE STAND FIRM AGAINST TALIBAN TERRORISTS & DO EVERYTHING TO STRENGTHEN THE NATIONAL RESISTANCE BY ALL MEANS AND WAYS. PERIOD,” he tweeted after a nationwide safety assembly chaired by President Ashraf Ghani.
The combating has raised fears of a refugee disaster and a rollback of good points in human rights because the Taliban have been ousted. Some 400,000 civilians have been compelled from their houses because the starting of the 12 months, 250,000 of them since May, a U.N. official mentioned.
“The situation has all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. World Food Programme’s Thomson Phiri advised a briefing.
The WFP was involved a couple of “larger tide of hunger,” he mentioned.
Under Taliban rule, ladies couldn’t work, ladies weren’t allowed to attend faculty and ladies had to cowl their face and be accompanied by a male family member in the event that they needed to enterprise out of their houses. In early July, Taliban fighters ordered 9 ladies to cease working in a financial institution.
Of Afghanistan’s main cities, the federal government nonetheless holds Mazar-i-Sharif within the north and Jalalabad, close to the Pakistani border within the east, as well as to Kabul.
SHELTERING IN PARKS
In response to the Taliban advances, the Pentagon mentioned on Thursday it would ship about 3,000 further troops inside 48 hours to assist evacuate U.S. Embassy workers.
Britain mentioned it would deploy about 600 troops to assist its residents depart whereas different embassies, together with these of the Netherlands, Germany and Norway, and support teams mentioned they have been additionally getting their individuals out.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will maintain an emergency assembly on Friday to talk about Afghanistan, a spokesperson mentioned.
NATO allies additionally held consultations on the Afghan scenario.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted: “Our aim remains to support the Afghan government & security forces. We maintain our diplomatic presence in Kabul & the security of our personnel is paramount.”
The United Nations has mentioned a Taliban offensive reaching Kabul would have a “catastrophic impact on civilians”. But there may be little hope for a negotiated finish to the combating, with the insurgents apparently set on a navy victory.
Families have been tenting out in a Kabul park with little or no shelter, having escaped violence elsewhere within the nation.
The Taliban additionally took the cities of Lashkar Gah within the south and Qala-e-Naw within the northwest, safety officers mentioned. Firuz Koh, capital of central Ghor province, was handed over and not using a struggle, officers mentioned.
The militants, combating to defeat the federal government and impose their strict model of Islamic rule, have taken management of 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals since Aug. 6.
After seizing Herat, the insurgents detained veteran commander Ismail Khan, an official mentioned. They had promised not to hurt him and different captured officers.
A Taliban spokesman confirmed that Khan, who had been main fighters in opposition to the Taliban, was of their custody.
The velocity of the offensive as U.S.-led international forces put together to full their withdrawal by the tip of this month has led to recriminations over President Joe Biden’s resolution to withdraw U.S. troops.
Biden mentioned this week he didn’t remorse his resolution, noting that Washington has spent greater than $1 trillion in America’s longest warfare and misplaced 1000’s of troops.
The lack of Kandahar is a heavy blow to the federal government. It is the heartland of the Taliban – ethnic Pashtun fighters who emerged in 1994 amid the chaos of civil warfare.
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Ghani on Thursday and advised him the United States remained “invested” in Afghanistan’s safety.
But at house, criticism of Biden’s coverage has been mounting.
The U.S. Senate’s Republican chief Mitch McConnell, mentioned the exit technique was sending the United States “hurtling toward an even worse sequel to the humiliating fall of Saigon in 1975”, referring to North Vietnam’s victory within the Vietnam warfare. He urged Biden to commit to giving extra assist to Afghan forces.
Reporting by Kabul, Islamabad, Geneva and Washington bureaus, Writing by Robert Birsel, Nick Macfie and Gareth Jones, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Frances Kerry, Mark Heinrich and Angus MacSwan