Kabul, July 14 (EFE).- Taliban fighters have captured a vital border crossing with Pakistan in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, officials and insurgents said Wednesday, in the latest militant offensive of seizing territories since May 1 when American forces began withdrawing.
“Our security forces withdrew after a tough battle at the border post, and they are preparing a counterattack,” a provincial administrative official told EFE, requesting anonymity.
The official said the Taliban gained control of the critical transit point in the Spin Boldak district on Tuesday night after days of clashes with the security forces.
Spin Boldak, located near the Durand Line border with Pakistan, is 110 km from the provincial capital of Kandahar city, home to the ethnic Pashtun heartland of Afghanistan.
Kandahar was the birthplace of the Taliban in the 1990s when the country was battling a deadly civil war.
The border crossing is one of the critical trade routes connecting Pakistan with southern Afghanistan.
The war-battered landlocked country relies heavily on Pakistan for land routes and seaports to conduct international trade.
Bahir Ahmadi, the spokesman for the Kandahar governor, told EFE that the gun battle between the insurgents and the security forces point was raging near the border.
Asked if the Taliban had gained control of the border crossing, the spokesperson said he could not confirm anything “because the telecommunication is down there.
“But our ground and air forces have arrived in the area and will soon control the situation.”
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the capture of the border crossing in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar.
“The important crossing point and custom also came under the control of the (Taliban),” Mujahid said in a statement.
Undated videos shared on Taliban social media accounts showed militants patrolling and hoisting their flags on the border crossings.
The Taliban vowed to protect traders and residents of the township.
Mujahid said trade would resume soon on the route after the Taliban would negotiate the opening of the border with the Pakistani authorities.
Waesh is one of nine key border crossings that Afghanistan maintains with its neighboring countries.
At least five of these trade links are under the control of the hardline Islamist insurgent group.
The Taliban captured some 130 district centers across the country and have surrounded several provincial capitals in the past two months, making unprecedented territorial gains in the past two decades after a United States invasion ousted the Islamist group.
In the last 24 hours, intense clashes have erupted between the Afghan forces and the Taliban in nine of the 34 Afghan provinces, said the Afghan defense ministry.
The sweeping offensive by the Taliban began after the US and NATO forces began their final phase of troops withdrawal on May 1.