The Taliban capture two Afghan capitals

The Taliban managed to seize two new Afghan provincial capitals on Tuesday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the movement, confirmed on Twitter. Both are part of the Baghlan province, north of Kabul. These are Farah in the west and Pul-e Khumri in the north. The rapidly advancing Taliban now control eight of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, including six of the nine in the north, and fighting continues in the other three.

“The Taliban are now in the city, they raised their flag in the central square and in the governor’s office,” said Mamoor Ahmadzai, a parliamentarian from Baghlan province. After two hours of clashes, security forces withdrew Tuesday night to a base on the outskirts of the city, he said. “The Taliban set parts of the city on fire, including two restaurants,” said an officer who fought insurgents in Baghlan on Sunday.

“This afternoon (Tuesday), the Taliban entered the city of Farah after briefly fighting the security forces. They seized the governor’s office and police headquarters. The security forces have withdrawn to an army base, ”said Shahla Abubar, provincial councilor.

Since Friday, the Taliban have taken control of Zaranj (southwest), Sheberghan (north), stronghold of the famous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostom, Kunduz, the big city in the northeast, as well as three other capitals. North, Taloqan, Sar-e -Pul and Aibak. They also continued to strengthen their hold around Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in the north. If this were to fall in turn, the government would no longer have any control over the whole of this region, which is traditionally fiercely opposed to the Taliban.

As fighting rages in the north, but also in the south around Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, two historic insurgent strongholds, Doha hosted an international meeting on Tuesday, with representatives from Qatar, the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Pakistan. , United Nations and European Union. The peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban began last September in Qatar, as part of the peace agreement concluded in February 2020 between the insurgents and Washington that provides for the total withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. This retreat must be completed by August 31st.

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But talks have stalled and the Taliban launched an offensive in May, when this final withdrawal began. After taking over large rural areas without encountering much resistance, they have moved to urban centers since the beginning of August. Although hopes that the talks will lead to a concrete outcome are slim, the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, urged the Taliban to “cease their military offensive and negotiate a political settlement.”

But the administration of President Joe Biden has no intention of changing lines. She will maintain her support for Kabul, but it is up to the Afghans to take their fate into their own hands. “It is their country that we have to defend. It’s their fight, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stressed Monday. The violence has driven tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes across the country, and the Taliban have been accused of numerous atrocities in places under their control.

“They beat and loot,” said Rahima, a woman who camped with hundreds of people in a park in Kabul after fleeing Sheberghan province. “If there is a girl or a widow in the family, they take her by force. We fled to protect our honor, “he added. Some 359,000 people have been displaced in Afghanistan due to the fighting since the beginning of the year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

Calm had returned to downtown Kunduz on Tuesday, residents said. However, clashes continued around the airport, which was left in the hands of government forces. “People are opening their stores and their businesses. But you can still see the fear in their eyes (…) the fighting can resume in the city at any moment, ”said Habibullah, a merchant.

At least 183 civilians were killed and 1,181 injured, including children, in a month in the cities of Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, Herat (west) and Kunduz, the UN said on Tuesday, specifying that only victims who could be documented were not acted there. .

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