The Taliban has reportedly made major advances in Kandahar, reaching the city’s center. The country’s second-largest city is now apparently on verge of collapse, and the militants have already seized some 10 provincial capitals.
The militant group claimed to have captured the southern city of Kandahar on Thursday after days of intense fighting against government troops. Footage released by the Taliban shows the group’s members reaching the city’s central square.
Other videos circulating online show a large column of Afghan military vehicles speeding through the square. The military has reportedly been withdrawing towards the city’s airport.
Taliban have been captured on camera purportedly pursuing the retreating government troops on foot, while chanting various slogans.
So far, the apparent loss of Kandahar has not been confirmed by official sources. Late on Wednesday, the Taliban said it “completely conquered” a key military location within the city – the heavily fortified jail – adding it released “hundreds of prisoners.”
Almost simultaneously with the developments in Kandahar, the militant group also claimed it made major advances in Herat, in the west of the country.
The country’s third-largest city has also seen heavy clashes between the Taliban and the government forces in recent days. Now the militant group has claimed it seized the local police headquarters, releasing footage from the compound that shows dozens of captured police trucks.
The ongoing developments in Herat and Kandahar come as the Afghan government forces suffered a string of defeats amid the recent massive offensive by the Taliban. In recent days, the government lost some 10 provincial capitals after the group switched its focus from rural areas to urban.
The strategic city of Ghazni became the latest one to fall into the group’s hands earlier on Thursday. The city is located just 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Kabul.
“The Taliban took control of the key areas of the city – the governor’s office, the police headquarters and the prison,” the head of the provincial council, Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, told AFP.
The US embassy in Kabul on Thursday urged all American citizens to leave the country immediately “using available commercial flight options” and offering loans for those needing funds to cover the cost of plane tickets.