The Taliban, who has been on the offensive in Afghanistan for weeks, seized control of the region’s seventh capital city of Farah in the western province of the same name on Tuesday, local authorities said. Currently, there are fights for the largest urban center in the north – Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of the Balkh province. An EU official quoted by the Reuters Agency said Taliban forces already control most of the country.
“The Taliban entered Farah City this afternoon after a brief fight with the security forces. They took over the governor’s office and police headquarters. The security forces retreated to the military base,” Shahla Abubar provincial councilor reported. Farah is the seventh provincial capital conquered by the Taliban in the last five days. Earlier they took Zarandż (provincial Nimruz), Talokan (Tachar), Kunduz (Kunduz), Sar-e-Pol (Sar-e-Pol), Szeberghan (Jozdjan) and Ajbak (Samangan).
Fierce fighting is also going on for the largest city in the north of Afghanistan – Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of the Balkh province, where the regional militias, long in conflict with the government of Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani, have received a request from federal forces for help in the fight against the Taliban. According to the AFP agency, the collapse of this city would mean the government losing control of the entire north of Afghanistan, which has so far been considered the most peaceful and safe part of the country, with a small number of Taliban and residents strongly opposing the presence of Taliban fighters there.
EU official: The Taliban control most of Afghanistan
As an EU official previously quoted by the Reuters Agency said earlier on Tuesday, the Taliban have failed to deliver on their promise to pursue peace in order to reach an intra-Afghan political agreement with the central government in Kabul that would allow for some form of transitional governance of the country. Currently, the Taliban control 65 percent of the country’s territory and are threatening to seize the capitals of 11 provinces. He added that their forces were also trying to deprive Kabul of support from Afghan forces in the north of the country.
Over the past few months, around 400,000 inhabitants of the country have had to leave their homes as a result of the armed conflict in Afghanistan. The number of people fleeing to Iran has increased in the last 10 days, the EU official said. Delivering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan is becoming increasingly difficult, he added, due to the ongoing fighting between government forces and the Taliban.
The representative of the European Union said the situation in Afghanistan was “quite difficult, but not desperate” and that it differed from the crises facing Syria and Iraq as it still has an internationally recognized government. The official said that the EU wants to avoid a situation in which Afghanistan will plunge into a civil war, become an even bigger producer of drugs or a source of “mass influx of migrants”.
Taliban offensive in Afghanistan
In the past three months, the Taliban, in the wake of a swift military offensive that began after US-led international troops began to withdraw from the country, seized vast rural areas in the south and west of Afghanistan and key border posts. After encountering weak resistance in the countryside, they channeled their forces into large urban centers, surrounding some of the largest provincial capitals, and then began to take control of them.
A Taliban spokesman told Al-Jazeera on Sunday that there is no agreement with the Kabul government on a ceasefire. He also warned the United States against another military intervention in Afghanistan.
According to the media, the next capitals of regions that could potentially be captured by the Taliban are: Herat in the west in the province of the same name, Lashkargah in southwestern Afghanistan, which is the capital of the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar (Kandahar).
Main photo source: JALIL REZAYEE / EPA / PAP