Since the US and NATO forces announced their withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of presence, the Taliban has moved swiftly, capturing a large part of the country’s territory.
The armed group, which was removed from power following the 2001 invasion, has in recent days seized key provincial capitals and other districts – about 50 percent of the country’s land.
Since Friday, the Taliban has seized eleven provincial capitals in Afghanistan, in a lightning offensive that appears to have overwhelmed government forces.
On Thursday, Ghazni city, the capital of Ghazni in central Afghanistan, and Herat city, the capital of Herat in the west was captured by the group.
Though the government has not publicly acknowledged the falling of any of the provinces, it has announced dispatching commandos and extra forces to the same provinces.
The first provincial capital the Taliban captured in August, Zaranj of Nimruz province, gave them access to yet another border crossing with Iran and another point of access to the Durand Line.
In the following days, the capitals of Jowzjan, Kunduz, Takhar, Sar-e Pol, Samangan, Farah, Pul-e-Khumri, and Faizabad also fell into its hands.
The capture of Kunduz marks the third time in seven years the group has been able to overtake the province, and the Shirkhan Bandar crossing into Tajikistan.
The Taliban’s territorial gains has seen the Afghan National Security Forces increase their reliance on air raids, a practice that has led to high civilian casualties in many of the provinces they aim to retake from the armed group.
The defence ministry said on Saturday that US B-52 bombers struck several Taliban targets in Sheberghan, the capital of Jowzjan province.
On the same day, the US embassy issued a statement condemning the Taliban’s inroads into provincial centres in the south and north.
“We condemn the Taliban’s violent new offensive against Afghan cities. This includes the unlawful seizure of Zaranj, the capital of Afghanistan’s Nimroz province, the attack on Sheberghan, capital of Jowzjan province yesterday and today, and continuing efforts to take over Lashkar Gah in Helmand and provincial capitals elsewhere,” the statement read.
Days before the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha in July, Afghanistan’s key peace and reconciliation leader Abdullah Abdullah led a high-level delegation to the Qatari capital, Doha, for the latest round of talks with Taliban leaders. But it ended inconclusively.
Abdullah is expected back in Doha for two more meetings this week.
As fighting rages, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said healthcare workers were struggling to get medicines and other supplies into Afghanistan.
The health body said some of its staff fled as health facilities came under attack.
WHO’s regional emergency director, Rick Brennan, said at least 18.4 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 3.1 million children at risk of acute malnutrition.
According to OCHA, the total number of people displaced since January 2021 is 389,645 of which 59 percent are children.