The militants have stepped up their push across much of Afghanistan, pointing their weapons at provincial capitals after taking large tracts of land in the mostly rural countryside. At the same time, they have been carrying out an assassination campaign targeting senior government officials in the capital Kabul.
The raid comes despite condemnations from the international community and warnings from the United Nations that a military victory and a Taliban takeover would not be recognized. The Taliban have also failed to heed calls to return to the negotiating table and continue long-stalled peace talks with the Afghan government.
Two lawmakers from the northern province of Samangan, Hayatullah Samangani and Mahboba Rahmat, said the provincial capital of Aybak fell to the Taliban on Monday afternoon without resistance. They said government officials fled to another district.
Provincial council member Mohammad Hashim Sarwari said Taliban fighters had previously captured three districts of the province before invading the capital.
Another provincial lawmaker who is physically in Samangan, Ziauddin Zia, said that some government facilities were still under government control as security forces resisted Taliban fighters.
According to Mohammad Noor Rahmani, the head of the council of the northern province of Sar-e Pul, the Taliban invaded the provincial capital after more than a week of resistance by the Afghan security forces, after which the city of Sar-e Pul Collapsed. Government forces have now completely withdrawn from the province, he said.
Several local pro-government militia commanders also surrendered to the Taliban without a fight, allowing insurgents to gain control of the entire province, Rahmani added.
The cities of Aybak and Sar-e Pul join three other provincial capitals that are now fully under Taliban control: Zaranj, the capital of the western province of Nimroz, the city of Sheberghan, the capital of the northern province of Zawzjan, and Taleqan, the capital of another northern province. with the same name.
The Taliban are also fighting for control of the city of Kunduz, the capital of the northern province of Kunduz. On Sunday, they planted their flag in the city’s main square, where it was seen flying over a traffic police booth, a video obtained by The Associated Press showed.
The capture of Kunduz would be a significant gain for the Taliban and a test of their ability to seize and retain territory in their campaign against the Western-backed government. It is one of the largest cities in the country with a population of over 340,000, and it was a key area defended against Taliban takeovers of power by Western troops over the years.
After billions of dollars spent assisting, training and propping up Afghan forces, many disagree on how to explain the surprising Taliban bombardment that has threatened, and now taken over, several of the 34 provincial capitals of the country. country.
Rahmani, the head of the council in Sar-e Pul, said the provincial capital had been under siege by militants for weeks, with no reinforcements being sent to the overloaded Afghan forces. A video that circulated on social media on Monday shows several Taliban fighters, standing in front of the Sar-e Pul governor’s office and congratulating each other on the victory.
The Taliban offensive across the country intensified as US and NATO troops began to conclude their withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer. With the increase in attacks by the Taliban, Afghan security forces and government troops have responded with airstrikes with the help of the United States. The fighting has also raised growing concern for civilian casualties.
On Monday, UNICEF said it was shocked by the rising death toll among children amid escalating violence in Afghanistan. In the past three days, at least 27 children have died in various provinces, including 20 in Kandahar, he said.
“ These atrocities are also evidence of the brutal nature and scale of violence in Afghanistan that preys on children who are already vulnerable, ” the agency said. He did not identify the side responsible for the killings. UNICEF also raised the alarm over what it said was increased recruitment of children by armed groups.
The Taliban also seized most of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Helmand province, where they seized nine of the city’s 10 police districts last week. Heavy fighting continues there, as do airstrikes by the US and Afghan governments, one of which damaged a health clinic and a high school.
The Defense Ministry confirmed that airstrikes occurred, but said they targeted Taliban positions, killing 54 fighters and wounding 23. Its statement does not mention that a clinic or school was bombed. Provincial Council Vice Chairman Majid Akhund said the facilities were under the control of the Taliban when they were attacked.
On Saturday, Taliban fighters entered the northern provincial capital of Jawzjan after razing nine of the province’s ten districts. And the city of Kandahar, the provincial capital of Kandahar, also remains under siege.
As they marched through the provincial capitals, the Taliban issued a statement in English on Sunday saying that residents, government employees and security officials had nothing to fear from them.
However, revenge attacks and repressive treatment of women have been reported in areas now under the control of the Taliban.