Afghan crisis International

More Afghan cities fall as Taliban near Kabul

Taliban fighters stand on a vehicle along the roadside in Kandahar on August 13, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The Taliban seized more major cities on August 13 as they raced to take full control of Afghanistan and inched closer to Kabul, with the U.S. and Britain deploying thousands of troops to evacuate their citizens from the capital.

The evacuation orders came as the Taliban took control of Kandahar — the nation’s second-biggest city — in the insurgency’s heartland, leaving only Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and pockets of other territories in government hands.

 

The Taliban also captured the capital of Logar Province, just 50 km from Kabul, with a local lawmaker saying the insurgents were in complete control of Pul-e-Alam city.

Earlier on Friday, officials and residents in Kandahar said government forces had withdrawn en masse to a military facility outside the southern city.

“Kandahar is completely conquered. The Mujahideen reached Martyrs’ Square,” a Taliban spokesman tweeted, referring to a city landmark.

 

Hours later, the Taliban said they had also taken control of Lashkar Gah, the capital of neighbouring Helmand Province.

A security source confirmed the fall of the city, saying that the Afghan military and government officials had evacuated Lashkar Gah after striking a local ceasefire deal with the militants.

The government has now effectively lost most of the country following an eight-day blitz into urban centres by the Taliban that has also stunned Kabul’s American backers.

Meanwhile, Washington and London announced plans late on August 12 to pull out their Embassy staff and citizens from the capital.

“We are further reducing our civilian footprint in Kabul in light of the evolving security situation,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, while noting the embassy would remain open. “This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not the wholesale withdrawal.”

The Pentagon said 3,000 U.S. troops would be deployed to Kabul within the next 24 to 48 hours, underscoring they would not be used to launch attacks against the Taliban.

The insurgents have taken over more than a dozen provincial capitals in the past week and encircled the biggest city in the north, the traditional anti-Taliban bastion of Mazar-i-Sharif, which is now one of the few holdouts remaining.

As the rout unravelled, three days of meetings between key international players on Afghanistan ended in Qatar without significant progress on August 13.

In a joint statement, the international community, including the United States, Pakistan, the European Union, and China, said they would not recognise any government in Afghanistan “imposed through the use of military force.”


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 5:24:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/taliban-close-in-on-kabul-embassies-prepare-for-evacuations/article35890070.ece

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