Taliban forces captured the key city of Mazar-e-Sharif, consolidating its takeover of north Afghanistan and another provincial capital near Kabul on Saturday, reportedly without much of a fight, as insurgents rapidly take over much of the country ahead of the U.S. military withdrawal at the end of August.
The most significant Taliban gain on Saturday was the capture of Mazar-e-Sharif, which is Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city with an estimated population of about 500,000 and the commercial center of the country’s north.
Afghan government forces capitulated after a heavy offensive from Taliban fighters, with pro-government militias surrendering soon after.
Insurgents also took the capital of Laghman Province northeast of Kabul, according to The Associated Press, with the Taliban now controlling essentially all of northern Afghanistan.
The Taliban has made major advances in recent days, seizing a slew of provincial capitals including Kandahar and Herat, the second- and third-largest cities in Afghanistan, respectively. The Afghan government is now only in control of 12 of the country’s 34 provinces, according to The Associated Press, and holds Kabul—Afghanistan’s capital and by far its largest city. It may not stay that way for long, with militant forces moving toward it. The Taliban gains come as the U.S. pulls out of its nearly 20-year-long fight against Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan, with the last U.S. troops set to leave the country by Aug. 31.
The U.S. will temporarily boost its dwindling troop presence in Afghanistan by sending 3,000 troops into Kabul to help with the evacuation of the U.S. embassy, including relocating some Afghans who worked with U.S. forces in the conflict with insurgents.
Taliban capture key northern city, approach Afghan capital (The Associated Press)
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