KABUL: The Taliban militants reportedly captured four provincial capitals in their lightning advances that speeded up since August 6 when they first took control of Zaranj city, the center of the southwestern province of Nimroz.
Reports said Saturday that the insurgent fighters seized Assad Abad, capital of Kunar province in the east that borders Pakistan’s tribal regions. They also entered Gardez city of Paktia and Sharana which is the center of Paktika province both bordering Pakistan. Pol-e-Alam is another provincial capital that fell to the militants in Logar province about an hour drive south of Kabul.
Videos on social media showed Taliban fighters in the streets of these cities.
Government officials in Kabul refused to comment about losing more areas to the insurgents.
There are also reports of heavy clashes between government forces and Taliban fighters at the gates of Mazar-e-Sharif city in the north. Local officials said Saturday that the militants attacked the city from multi directions, but were forced be government forces to retreat.
Mazar-e-Shahrif is the capital of Balkh, a strategic province that shares border with Uzbekistan via Hairatan border crossing. It is the fourth largest city and one of business centers.
Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Noor who are believed to be powerful men in the north, have frequently vowed to defend Mazar-e-Sharif surrounded by Taliban fighters who have control on the province’s most districts.
In Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani in a televised message to the nation, acknowledged Saturday that the country was in a crucial situation, but vowed to change the situation in favor of republic.
With the fresh advances, the Taliban have now control on 21 out of 34 provinces. The government holds three major cities (Kabul, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif), with Jalalabd and Mazar-e-Sharif are reported to be in volatile situation.