(Update 1: adds Ghani’s remarks and fall of Asadabad)
Kabul, Aug 14 (EFE).- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday said that the “top priority” is to remobilize troops to counter the Taliban offensive, as the islamist group seized control of a 20th provincial capital in a little over a week.
“Under the current situation, the remobilization of the security forces is our top priority and the necessary measures are being taken for this purpose,” Ghani said in a televised speech.
Ghani said he was aware of the mounting “concern” among the population over their “future and present,” adding that the authorities have been working to prevent any more “instability, violence and displacement” in Afghanistan.
“To do this, I have initiated extensive consultations within and outside the government; with political leaders and international partners and will soon share the results with the population,” he added.
Ghani’s remarks come as the Taliban on Saturday seized the Afghan province of Kunar’s capital Asadabad, the 20th provincial capital they have captured in nine days.
“The Taliban entered the city of Asadabad this afternoon and captured most of the city, including the police headquarters, the governor’s house and the rest of the government institutions,” said Latif Fazli, a member of the Kunar provincial council.
The insurgents opened the province’s prison and released the inmates, he added.
After the fall of the city, public servants and security forces were evacuated to Nangarhar’s Jalalabad, one of the few provincial capitals that are still under the control of Afghan authorities.
“I don’t know what is the scenario behind the evacuation of the city, but officials left the city without fighting or resisting the Taliban,” Fazli said.
The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed on his Twitter account the seizure of the city after “the governor’s office, police headquarters, intelligence center and all facilities” fell to them.
Earlier in the day, the insurgents captured Sharana, the capital of southeast Afghanistan’s Paktika province, after local officials and security forces evacuated the city following a deal with the insurgents, an official told Efe.
“Officials have evacuated the governor’s house and police headquarters, and the Taliban entered the city,” said Khalid Asad, the representative of Paktika province in the lower house of Parliament.
He said the city was handed over to the Taliban peacefully without even “a bullet being fired.”
Government officials and security forces evacuated the city after striking a surrender “deal mediated by local elders between officials and the Taliban,” he added.
“Mujahideens of the Islamic Emirate (as the Taliban address themselves) entered the Sharana city of Paktika. All defensive checkposts of the city were conquered,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, wrote on his Twitter account.
“The enemy is under siege in the governor house and police headquarters. Mujahideens have sent the enemy the surrender message to use this opportunity and save their lives,” he added. EFE