‘This is the moment to avoid a prolonged civil war’ UN chief says in appeal to armed group sweeping through Afghanistan.
The Taliban has claimed to have taken Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second biggest city, in what would be a major blow to Afghan government forces.
Citing witnesses, the Associated Press reported the Taliban had seized the governor’s office and other buildings. The witnesses declined to be named publicly as the government had not yet acknowledged the defeat.
“Kandahar is completely conquered. The Mujahideen reached Martyrs’ Square in the city,” a Taliban spokesman tweeted on an officially-recognised account, AFP news agency reported, adding that a city resident confirmed the Taliban was in control of the city.
Reuters news agency later reported an unnamed government official saying the city, once a Taliban stronghold, had fallen but government forces remained in control of the airport.
Earlier, residents and local journalists reported Herat, the country’s third-largest city, had fallen to the armed group. Ghazni, about 130km (80 miles) southwest of the national capital, Kabul, also fell on Thursday.
The Taliban has taken at least 11 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals over the past week. If confirmed, Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold, would be the 12th.
Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, reporting from the capital Kabul, said the capture of Herat was a “major scalp” for the Taliban, and a “huge loss” for government forces, as the armed group continued its sweeping military advance across Afghanistan amid pullout of foreign troops after 20 years of war.
“The Taliban has been on a huge offensive this evening, claiming scalps in the west, potentially in the east, and pushing incredibly hard in the South,” she reported.
Meanwhile, a government source tells Al Jazeera the Afghan government has offered the Taliban a share in power so long as the rising violence in the country comes to a halt.
Here are all the latest updates:
Local official says Kandahar has fallen
A local government official has told Reuters news agency that the Taliban have captured Kandahar.
“Following heavy clashes late last night the Taliban took control of Kandahar city,” a local government official told the news agency.
Government forces were still in control of Kandahar’s airport, which was the U.S. military’s second biggest base in Afghanistan during their 20 years in the country.
Security Council discussing statement to condemn Taliban
Reuters is reporting that the UN Security Council is discussing a draft statement that would condemn Taliban attacks on cities and towns causing high civilian casualties.
The statement would also threaten sanctions for abuses and acts that risk Afghanistan’s peace and stability, diplomats told the news agency.
The formal statement, drafted by Estonia and Norway and seen by Reuters, has to be agreed by consensus by the 15-member body.
The text also “strongly affirms that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is not recognized at the United Nations and declares that it does not and will not support the establishment of any government in Afghanistan imposed through military force or restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”
Taliban claims to have taken Kandahar
The Taliban is claiming it has captured Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city.
“Kandahar is completely conquered. The Mujahideen reached Martyrs’ Square in the city,” a Taliban spokesman tweeted on an officially recognised account – a claim backed by a resident, who told AFP news agency government forces appeared to have withdrawn en masse to a military facility outside the city.
Citing witnesses, the Associated Press earlier reported the Taliban had seized the governor’s office and other buildings and that officials had flown to Kabul.
US tells Afghan President Ghani it “remains invested” in Afghanistan
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stressed in a call with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday that the US “remains invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan in the face of violence by the Taliban”, the State Department said in a statement.
Blinken and Austin told Ghani the US was reducing its civilian footprint in Kabul in light of the evolving security situation and would speed up flights for those with special visas.
“The Secretaries both emphasized that the United States remains committed to maintaining a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the Government of Afghanistan,” the statement said.
Afghanistan talks in Doha end with call for accelerated peace process, halting attacks
Envoys from the United States, China, Russia and other states on Thursday called for an accelerated peace process for Afghanistan as a “matter of great urgency” following talks in Qatar and for an immediate halt to attacks on provincial capitals and cities in Afghanistan.
A joint statement issued after the talks said the participants reaffirmed that they would not recognise any government in Afghanistan “imposed through the use of military force” and are committed to reconstruction assistance once a “viable” political settlement is reached.
Taliban spokesman says swift fall of big cities indicates Afghans welcome the group
A Taliban spokesman said on Thursday to Al Jazeera television that the swift fall of big cities indicates Afghans welcome the group.
He added, “We will not close the door to the political track.”
Envoys from the United States, China and other states on Thursday called for an accelerated peace process for Afghanistan as a “matter of great urgency” and for an immediate halt to attacks on provincial capitals and cities in Afghanistan.
EU foreign policy chief urges Afghan government to work with Taliban
The Afghan government should engage with the Taliban to reach an inclusive settlement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as the group made rapid gains amid spiralling violence and worries of a refugee crisis.
“We encourage the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to settle political differences, increase representation of all stakeholders and engage with the Taliban from a united perspective,” Borrell said in a statement.
He said a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and minorities, were key to the European Union’s continued support for Afghanistan.
INTERACTIVE: 10 maps to understand Afghanistan
During the past seven days, the Taliban has taken control of at least 11 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.
The armed group now controls an estimated 65 percent of the country’s territory, as the US-led foreign forces are about to complete the pullout from the country after 20 years of war.
Read more here.
US sending troops to help evacuate embassy staff in Kabul
The US is sending an additional 3,000 troops into Afghanistan to help evacuate some personnel from the embassy in Kabul, Biden administration officials said Thursday.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the embassy will remain open despite the planned evacuations.
Read more here.
UK to send troops to Kabul ‘to assist British nationals to leave’: UK govt
The UK government said it was sending troops to Afghanistan to help its embassy staff leave the country, after the United States announced a similar deployment as the Taliban makes rapid gains.
“I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.
Afghanistan’s third-largest city, Herat, falls to Taliban
Afghanistan’s third-largest city, Herat, has been captured by the Taliban, residents and local journalists said, becoming the eleventh provincial capital to be captured by the armed group in recent days.
“We’ve talked to about half a dozen residents in Herat, to try to confirm this. They’re all saying the same thing. They say the Taliban all over the streets. That they own all the government facilities that they don’t see any government security forces, and that Herat has fallen to the Taliban,” Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, reporting from Kabul, said.
“It is a major scalp for the armed group to get. It is the biggest city in the West, and it is a huge loss for the government to lose control of this city,” she said.
The Al Jazeera correspondent said that former Mujahideen commander, Ismail Khan, who was leading uprising forces against Taliban, has reportedly fled the key city in the country’s west.
Local journalists told us that they could not see any clashes currently, adding that the Taliban broke into the prison and freed all the prisoners, Bellis said.
UN warns of ‘catastrophic impact’ if Afghan conflict reaches Kabul
The UN issued a stark warning on Thursday if ongoing fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban reaches the capital.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric emphasised the importance of the continuing intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Qatar, warning that fighting on Kabul’s streets would lead to a major humanitarian disaster.
“We hope that the discussions this week in Doha between representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban, along with regional and international envoys will restore the pathway to a negotiated settlement to the conflict,” he said at the UN’s New York headquarters.
Taliban reportedly have taken Herat, released prisoners residents say
The Taliban have reportedly taken over the third-largest city in Afghanistan, Herat, according to local residents, including over a prison and releasing prisoners.
“One local journalist said … he could specifically confirm they [Taliban] had broken into a prison and released prisoners, and that they were in the governor’s compound,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Kabul reported.
“Another resident told us that he has driven through the city and he said there are Taliban on the streets everywhere. He says that gunfire is heard in the streets, but everything he saw was simply celebrator gunfire, coming from the Taliban themselves. He also confirmed to us that the prison had been broken into, because he said his relatives were in the prison … and now in his house.”
More than 10,000 IDPs arrive in Kabul across several weeks: UN
The United Nations’ humanitarian affairs agency has said thousands of people have arrived in Kabul and other large cities, “seeking safety from the conflict and other threats”.
“Between 1 July and 12 August 2021, the humanitarian community verified 10,350 IDPs who had arrived in Kabul,” a statement by the OCHA said.
“Thousands more are reported to be displaced and assessments are underway to verify their needs. The majority of those staying in Kabul, either renting or being hosted by friends, family and other kinship ties.”
Turkey’s Kabul airport presence a peace mission: Afghan envoy
Afghanistan’s newly appointed ambassador to Ankara on Thursday said that Turkey’s contionuing mission at the Hamid Karzai International Airport is in support of peace and stability.
Speaking to a group of reporters from the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Turkey, Amir Mohammad Ramin hailed Turkey’s role in Afghanistan.
“The whole idea of continuation of Turkey’s important mission in Afghanistan is to ensure that the peace and stability in Afghanistan is maintained and strengthened,” Ramin said.
Pakistani forces clash with Afghan protesters at border crossing shut by Taliban
Pakistani forces clashed with hundreds of Afghans stranded on Pakistan’s side of a commercially vital border crossing with Afghanistan after its closure by Taliban fighters, Pakistani security officials said.
The disturbances broke out after a 56-year-old Afghan traveller died of a heart attack as he waited in the dusty heat to enter Afghanistan via the Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing, Arif Kakar, a Pakistani official on the scene, told the Reuters news agency.
Protesters carried his body to a local Pakistani government office demanding the border be reopened. Some began throwing stones at security forces, who responded by firing tear gas and charging the protesters with batons to disperse them. No injuries were reported.
Taliban claims to capture Herat: reports
The Taliban has claimed to have captured Afghanistan’s third-largest city Herat, but Afghan government officials have yet to confirm the development.
“The Taliban have just tweeted … saying that they have taken the city of Herat. This is a huge development, if it is proven to be true,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent reporting from the capital, Kabul, said.
“At the moment, residents are just telling us the Taliban are in the heart of Herat, but we cannot confirm with government officials. I have just got off the phone with the Ministry of Interior, they say give us some time as we’re trying to confirm.”
Earlier, the AFP news agency reported according to an unnamed security official, the Taliban took Herat.
A senior security source from Herat told AFP that government forces and administration officials had retreated to an army barracks outside the city.
The armed group has already taken control of the police headquarters in the most important city in the country’s west.
Denmark suspends deportations to Afghanistan until October
Denmark will suspend deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers to Afghanistan until October 8 following a request from the Kabul government amid increased conflict in the country, the Danish immigration ministry said.
The decision comes after Denmark last week signed a letter with five other European Union countries, insisting on their right to forcibly deport Afghan asylum seekers whose cases had been rejected.
Denmark’s move follows similar announcements by Germany and the Netherlands – two other signatories to the letter – as the Taliban continues to make advances around Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.
Trump blames Biden for ‘unacceptable’ Taliban surge in Afghanistan
Former President Donald Trump blasted his successor Joe Biden for putting no conditions on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and said a violent Taliban surge in the war-torn country was “not acceptable”.
Trump said the US pullout, which Biden has set for August 31 and which is already all but complete, would have been “a much different and much more successful withdrawal” if he were still president.
It was under Trump that the US brokered a deal with the Taliban in Doha in 2020 that would have seen the US withdraw all its troops by May 2021 in exchange for various security guarantees from the group. When Biden took power earlier this year, he pushed back the deadline for the withdrawal and set no conditions for it.
“If I were now president, the world would find that our withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a conditions-based withdrawal,” Trump claimed in a statement.
Taliban takes over Herat police HQ in western Afghanistan: AFP
The Taliban has taken over the main police headquarters in Herat, Afghanistan’s third-biggest city, a journalist of the AFP news agency at the scene said.
He added there had been no resistance, while a Taliban spokesman tweeted “the enemy fled … Dozens of military vehicles, weapons and ammunition fell into the hands of the mujahideen”.
US urges Americans to leave Afghanistan immediately
The United States on Thursday urged its citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options, a notice on the website of the US embassy in Kabul said, amid a speedy Taliban advance across the country.
“The US Embassy urges US citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options,” a notice on the embassy’s website said, and warned Americans about the capability of the mission at this time in serving citizens.
“Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist US citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul,” the notice said.
‘Intense fighting’ in Kandahar city, say residents
Taliban has entered Kandahar city, residents told Al Jazeera, with some describing the situation in Afghanistan’s second-largest city as “dire”, as intense fighting raging between rebels and government forces inside the city limits.
One resident told Al Jazeera’s Ali M Latifi flights out of the Ahmad Shah Baba International Airport have been cancelled for the day, but Al Jazeera has not been able to officially confirm the veracity of the report.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Charlotte Bellis, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said the Taliban claimed on social media to have taken over the strategic city.
“The Taliban has just tweeted that they have taken Kandahar city. We don’t understand that to be entirely true, but we do understand that there is intense fighting happening in Kandahar city right now,” she said.
Bellis said Kandahar was “a huge asset for the government and a huge priority” for it to hold on to. Nearly 400,000 people reside in the city.
Kabul airport security to prevent Afghanistan from isolation: Turkey
Turkey’s main purpose in continuing to provide security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is to prevent the war-torn country from becoming isolated, the country’s defence minister said.
Speaking at the Turkish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, Hulusi Akar said, “There are statements that if the airport in Kabul is closed, all diplomatic missions in the country will be withdrawn. We all know that such a thing is not desirable for our Afghan brothers. Thus, we continue to share our views that it would be beneficial to keep the airport open.”
Who are the Taliban’s key leaders in Afghanistan?
The Taliban has been fighting the Western-backed Afghan government in Kabul since it was removed from power in 2001.
It originally drew members from so-called “mujahideen” fighters who, with support from the United States, repelled Soviet forces in the 1980s.
Read more here.
Timeline: Taliban’s rapid advance across Afghanistan
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the group’s major milestones and advances in recent months.
France suspends expulsions of migrants to Afghanistan
France has suspended expelling Afghan asylum seekers whose asylum applications had been rejected, due to the deteriorating security situation in the country as the Taliban presses an offensive, the government says.
The French interior ministry tells the AFP news agency in a statement that the policy had been in place since early July, after similar announcements of the suspension of such expulsions by Germany and the Netherlands.
Ghazni governor arrested ‘for surrendering without a fight’
The governor of Ghazni province has been arrested in Wardak province, south of Kabul, Al Jazeera’s Ali M Latifi reports from Kabul.
The arrest comes after a video showed him fleeing the city of Ghazni once it fell to the Taliban, he says.
Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, also reporting from Kabul, later says the governor had made a deal with the Taliban for a safe passage, which led to his arrest.
“The governor has decided to make a deal with the Taliban to get out safely and we understand he was given by the Taliban in exchange for handing over the city,” she says.
Pakistan useful for US only to clean up Afghanistan ‘mess’: Khan
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the US of seeing his country as useful only in the context of the “mess” it is leaving behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting.
Washington has been pressing Pakistan to use its influence over the Taliban to broker an elusive peace deal as negotiations between the fighters and the Afghan government have stalled, and violence in Afghanistan has escalated sharply.
Read more here.
Afghan government offers Taliban share in power
A government source has confirmed to Al Jazeera that the Afghan government has offered the Taliban a share in power so long as the rising violence in the country comes to a halt.
The proposal was delivered through Qatar, the host of Afghan peace talks, according to the source, Al Jazeera’s Ali M Latifi reports from Kabul.
Taliban takes Ghazni city on road to Afghan capital: Official
Taliban fighters capture the city of Ghazni, the 10th provincial capital they have seized in several days.
A senior security official tells Reuters news agency the Taliban had captured Ghazni, which is on the highway between Kabul and the second city of Kandahar, and had occupied all of its government agency headquarters after heavy clashes.
“All local government officials, including the provincial governor, have been evacuated towards Kabul,” says the official who declined to be identified.
Denmark to evacuate current, former local employees
Denmark has agreed to evacuate current and former employees of the Danish embassy or Danish armed forces in Afghanistan due to the worsening security situation, the government says, adding that Denmark will grant people who have been employed in the previous two years and their close relatives temporary residence permits for two years.
“The security situation in Afghanistan is serious. The Taliban are gaining ground and developments are accelerating faster than many had feared,” the government says in a statement.
“We have a common responsibility to help the Afghans who are now threatened due to their connection to and contribution to Denmark’s engagement in Afghanistan,” it said.
Last day of Afghanistan talks in Doha
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Doha, says the third and last day of multination talks on Afghanistan have started in the Qatari capital.
“The delegations we have not yet seen appear here today at the main venue for these talks are the delegations for the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he says.
“I spoke with one member of the Afghan government delegation who said that they expect they will be meeting with the envoys who have assembled here in this hall for around 2pm Doha time (11:00 GMT).”
“The sense that we are getting from all the diplomats is that they are extremely concerned about what’s been going on in Afghanistan and they are trying to come up with some type of joint plan in order to get the situation under control.”
The talks include diplomats and envoys from the US, the UK, the EU, China, Pakistan and Uzbekistan along with the UN.
No German money for Afghanistan if Islamic law introduced: FM
Germany will not provide any financial support to Afghanistan if the Taliban takes power in the country and introduces Islamic law, its foreign minister tells broadcaster ZDF.
“We provide 430 million euros ($505m) every year, we will not give another cent if the Taliban takes over the country and introduces Sharia law,” Heiko Maas says.
Governor leaves Ghazni city
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, says the city of Ghazni has fallen to the Taliban, but there is still fighting around the intelligence compound.
“The governor of Ghazni has actually left the city,” he says.
“This is a significant gain for the Taliban. There has been extensive fighting around the city of Ghazni for some days now. It was always suspected that if another provincial capital was about to fall, this would probably be Ghazni.”
Police headquarters falls to Taliban in Lashkar Gah
The Taliban has captured police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, a provincial capital in southern Afghanistan that is teetering towards being lost to the armed group as suspected US air raids pounded the area, an official said.
By Thursday, the Taliban had taken the building, with some police officers surrendering to the group and others retreating to the nearby governor’s office still held by government forces, said Nasima Niazi, a lawmaker from Helmand.
Niazi said she believed the Taliban attack killed and wounded security force members, but she had no casualty figures.
Taliban launches attacks on Ghazni from several directions
The Taliban appears to be pressing into Ghazni, the capital of Ghazni province, about 130km (80 miles) southwest of Kabul.
Wahidullah Jumazada, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Ghazni, acknowledged the fighters had launched attacks from several directions on the capital, but insisted the government remained in control.
The Taliban posted a video online claiming it had made it inside the provincial capital.
Local sources have told Al Jazeera that fighting continues in Ghazni. The most intense fighting remains near the intelligence headquarters as special forces and the military are fighting to push back the Taliban.
Taliban breaches Kandahar’s central prison, releases prisoners
Local security sources have confirmed Taliban reports that the group has breached the central prison in the city of Kandahar, Al Jazeera’s Ali M Latifi reports from Kabul.
The armed group claims to have freed “hundreds” of prisoners, he said.
“Previously, the Taliban had breached the Kandahar prison in 2008 and 2011, those breaches also led to the escape of hundreds of prisoners.”
UN: Almost 390,000 people newly displaced in Afghanistan
Almost 390,000 people have been newly displaced by conflict in Afghanistan since the start of the year, with a huge spike since May, a UN spokesperson says.
“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that between 1 July and 5 August 2021, the humanitarian community verified that 5,800 internally displaced persons have arrived in Kabul and are seeking safety from the conflict and other threats,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
He added that a multibillion-dollar humanitarian assistance fund for Afghanistan had a shortfall of $800m.