The Taliban have captured two major Afghan cities, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, the country’s second- and third-largest after Kabul, a senior security source told news agency Agence France Presse on Friday, confirming a claim by the insurgents. This would leave the Afghan government with capital city Kabul and pockets of other territory.
Military and government officials had evacuated the city after striking a deal with the militants, the security source told AFP.
Kandahar is completely conquered. The Mujahideen reached Martyrs’ Square in the city, a Taliban spokesman tweeted on an officially recognised account.
With peace talks stalled, violence in Afghanistan has escalated sharply as the insurgent group makes rapid territorial gains. 10 provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban over the last week, the latest being Ghazni, just 130 kilometers southwest of Kabul. Seizing Ghazni cuts off a crucial highway linking the Afghan capital with the country’s southern provinces. A recent US intelligence report had said that the Taliban could isolate Kabul in the next 30 days, and complete a takeover in 90.
The Pentagon announced it would send three battalions, about 3,000 soldiers, to Kabul’s international airport within 24 to 48 hours of the announcement on Thursday. The UK said it would send 600 troops, and the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said Britain was relocating its embassy from the outskirts of the secure Green Zone to a potentially safer location closer to the centre of the capital.
Afghanistan witnessed a series of terror attacks in the last few weeks as the United States looked to complete the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan by August-end, ending a nearly two-decade of its military presence in the war-ravaged country. President Joe Biden determined to end the war by September 11.
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