Conflicts & War

Setback for Afghan forces as Taliban capture first provincial capital

By Baber Khan Sahel

Kabul, July 7 (EFE).- Taliban fighters Wednesday entered the capital of the northwestern Badghis province, capturing the first provincial headquarters in their rapid advance through Afghanistan, an official said, in a major military setback for the besieged government forces after the hasty American withdrawal from the country.

Zyauddin Akazoy, a member of the lower house of the Afghan parliament from Badghis, told EFE that hundreds of government forces surrendered to the advancing Taliban fighters before the insurgents captured parts of the Qala-e-Naw city.

“The Taliban have entered the city,” Akazoy said.

He alleged that the insurgents broke open a prison complex and freed hundreds of inmates, including their jailed colleagues.

Video footage by local journalists on social media channels showed the Taliban asking the prisoners to flee after opening the building gates in Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan.

The lawmaker said the fighting was on and “the situation is not good” in the city.

He said more than 600 members of the security forces surrendered to the Taliban.

Those who laid down their arms include deputy police chief Khwaja Murad and some other senior officers.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian said, in a statement, that security forces in Badghis would be “responding to the threats.”

Qala-e-Naw became the first Afghan provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since the US and NATO forces began their final withdrawal on May 1.

The Taliban had earlier claimed that they had no plan to attack any provincial capital to prevent damage to government and public assets and infrastructure in heavily populated urban areas.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told EFE Wednesday that the insurgents were committed to the promise not to attack any provincial capital.

He said Taliban fighters entered the city because the security forces had already fled the area.

He said the fighters “entered those areas to maintain security and safeguard the city and properties from looting.”

The spokesperson denied the allegations that Taliban fighters broke open the provincial prison complex, claiming that jail security guards who fled the area unlocked it.

Afghan government forces are under pressure from the advancing Taliban fighters after American and allied troops began withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Violence has since spiked in the war-ravaged country.

The government Tuesday confirmed that the insurgents had captured more than 100 of the country’s 400 districts, which it blamed on a lack of military support to the Afghan forces after the pullout of international troops.

“The Taliban’s territorial gains are due to several reasons… mainly as a result of the retreat (of foreign forces) as some of our own resources were not enough,” National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib told reporters.

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