The Taliban captured two more provincial capitals on Sunday as they gained ground in their fight to require over Afghanistan’s cities after seizing much of the countryside in recent months.
The insurgents have snatched up four provincial capitals since Friday during a rapid offensive that appears to possess overwhelmed government forces.
Kunduz and Sar-e-Pul within the north fell within hours of every other on Sunday, lawmakers and residents within the cities confirmed, but not without fierce fighting.
A Kunduz resident described the town as being enveloped in “total chaos”.
“After some fierce fighting, the mujahideen, with the grace of God, captured the capital of Kunduz,” the Taliban said during a statement.
“The mujahideen also captured Sar-e-Pul city, the govt buildings and every one the installations there.”
Parwina Azimi, a women’s rights activist in Sar-e-Pul, told AFP by phone that officialdom and therefore the remaining forces had retreated to a barracks about three kilometers from the town.
“A plane came … but couldn’t [land],” she said.
Kunduz, however, is that the most vital Taliban gain since the insurgents launched an offensive in May as foreign forces began the ultimate stages of their withdrawal.
It has been a perennial target for the Taliban, who briefly overran the town in 2015 and again in 2016 but never managed to carry it for long.
The ministry of defense said government forces were fighting to retake key installations.
“The commando forces have launched a clearing operation. Some areas, including the national radio and television buildings, are cleared of the terrorist Taliban,” it said during a statement.
An Afghan security forces spokesman also said “extremely [heavy]fighting goes on” in Kunduz, as security forces fought to defend the town, considered a strategic prize because it lay at the gateway to mineral-rich northern provinces and Central Asia.
But a provincial lawmaker in Kunduz told Reuters the insurgents had taken key buildings within the city of 270,000 people, raising fears that it might be the newest to fall to the Taliban.
“Heavy clashes started yesterday afternoon, all government headquarters are on top of things of the Taliban, only the military base and therefore the airport is with ANDSF (Afghan National Defence Security Forces) from where they’re resisting the Taliban,” Amrudddin Wali, a member of Kunduz provincial assembly, said.
Health officials in Kunduz said that 14 bodies, including those of girls and youngsters, and quite 30 injured people had been taken to the hospital.
Kabul’s inability to carry the north may prove crucial to the government’s long-term survival.
Northern Afghanistan has long been considered an anti-Taliban stronghold that saw a number of the stiffest resistance to militant rule out the 1990s.
The region continues to be home to many militias and is additionally a fertile recruiting ground for the country’s soldiers.
On Friday, the Taliban seized their first capital, Zaranj in southwestern Nimroz on the border with Iran, and followed it up each day later by taking Sheberghan in northern Jawzjan province the subsequent day.
Fighting was also reported on the outskirts of Herat within the west, and Lashkar Gah and Kandahar within the south.
The pace of Taliban advances has caught government forces flatfooted, but that they had some respite afterward Saturday after US warplanes bombed Taliban positions in Sheberghan.
“US forces have conducted several airstrikes in defense of our Afghan partners in recent days,” Major Nicole Ferrara, a Central Command spokesperson, told AFP in Washington.
Sheberghan is that the stronghold of notorious Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose militiamen and government forces were reported to possess retreated to the airport.
Dostum has overseen one among the most important militias within the north and garnered a fearsome reputation fighting the Taliban within the 1990s — alongside accusations his forces massacred thousands of insurgent prisoners of war.
Any retreat of his fighters would dent the government’s recent hopes that militia groups could help bolster the country’s overstretched military.
The government has said little about the autumn of the provincial capitals, aside from vowing they might be retaken.
That has been a well-known response to most Taliban gains of recent weeks, although government forces have largely did not observe promises to retake dozens of districts and border posts.
The withdrawal of foreign forces is thanks to being complete at the top of this month, before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on us that sparked the invasion which toppled the Taliban.