Taliban move closer to Kabul in sweeping territorial gains


Taliban fighters overran key areas of Logar province on Friday bringing them near to Kabul, security sources confirmed, a day after the militants took control of another key city west of the Afghan capital.

Logar lies 25 km south of Kabul and serves as an artery for the capital’s security. On Thursday, Taliban guerrillas seized Ghazni, a strategic town 120 km from Kabul.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters the group was in control of Logar’s provincial capital, Pul-i-Alam, its prison and police headquarters. He said many government soldiers had surrendered to the group.

“The Taliban have taken some key areas in Logar,” a security source from Logar, who was not authorized to talk to the media, told Arab News. “There is resistance in some parts, but things do not look good.”

While officials declined to comment, a second security source in Kabul confirmed the account.

The Taliban’s battlefield victories are heaping pressure on the government, which has lost many provincial centers.

Since Thursday, the Taliban have tightened their grip on Afghanistan and taken over the country’s second and third largest cities — Kandahar in the south and Herat in the west.

Local sources in Herat said government troops had surrendered to the Taliban. Former Afghan mujahideen leader Ismail Khan, who until last night led anti-Taliban resistance, said he hoped the Taliban would treat people well.

“We ask (Taliban) to treat people well, so they have a good feeling and live comfortably by each other’s side,” Khan said in a video shared by the group, adding that he wished fighting would come to an end for Afghanistan’s stability.

In the south, the militants have captured Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, and Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. In the west, they have taken over Ghor province and Badghis province, which borders Turkmenistan.

The Taliban siege of other cities continues, with Mazar-i-Sharif — the fourth largest city and capital of Balkh — and Maimana, the capital of Faryab — remaining under government control.

Their rapid advances have caught many by surprise, with the US and UK rushing to evacuate their citizens.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have been displaced by the last few weeks of fighting, with peace talks between the Taliban and government remaining stalled.

The US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, in a series of tweets on Friday called for an end to the attacks, warning that the international community would reject a government established by force.

Many, however, blame the US for leaving the country without making the Taliban and Kabul reach a power-sharing agreement, as they fear the country will slip into civil war once the troops are gone.

The US is withdrawing under an historic agreement signed with the Taliban in February last year.

It will end its combat mission in Afghanistan by Aug. 31, nearly 20 years after it invaded the country and toppled the Taliban for protecting Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

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