The Taliban have taken the strategic Afghan city of Ghazni just 150 kilometres from Kabul, a senior lawmaker and therefore the insurgents said on Thursday.
The city — the 10th capital to fall to the insurgents during a week — lies along the main Kabul-Kandahar highway, effectively serving as a gateway between the capital and militant strongholds within the south.
“The Taliban took control of the key areas of the town — the governor’s office, the police station and therefore the prison,” Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of the provincial council, told AFP.
He added that fighting continued in parts of the town but that the capital was largely within the Taliban’s hands.
The Taliban also confirmed capturing the town , consistent with a press release posted by a spokesman on social media.
The Afghan conflict has escalated dramatically since May, when US-led forces began the ultimate stage of a troop withdrawal thanks to end later this month following a 20-year occupation.
The loss of the Ghazni will likely pile more pressure on the country’s already overstretched airforce, needed to bolster Afghanistan’s scattered security forces who have increasingly been stop from reinforcements by road.
In but every week the insurgents have seized 10 provincial capitals and have now encircled the most important city within the north, the normal anti-Taliban bastion of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Fighting was also raging in Kandahar and Lashkar Gar — pro-Taliban heartlands within the south — also as Herat within the west.
Late on Wednesday, the Taliban claimed to possess overrun the heavily fortified jail in Kandahar, saying it had been “completely conquered after an extended siege” which “hundreds of prisoners were released and brought to safety”.
The Taliban frequently target prisons to release incarcerated fighters and replenish their ranks.
The loss of the jail may be a further ominous sign for the country’s second city, which has been besieged for weeks by the Taliban.
The city was once the stronghold of the Taliban— whose forces coalesced within the eponymously named province within the early 1990s — and its capture would function both a huge tactical and psychological victory for the militants.