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Afghanistan: Taliban continue attacks on three major cities


  • Fighting continues in three major cities in south and west Afghanistan, as Taliban militants seek to seize them from government forces.
Clashes continued in Herat, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar on Sunday as well.

The Taliban have made rapid rural gains since it was announced that almost all foreign troops would be gone by September.

But the fate of these major cities could be critical amid fears of a humanitarian crisis and how long government forces will last.

Radical Islamic militias are believed to have already occupied half of Afghanistan, including lucrative border crossings with Iran and Pakistan, but it has yet to take over a provincial capital.

  • Mapping the Taliban's Progress in Afghanistan
Heavy fighting continued inside the city even on Sunday at Lashkar Gah.

The rebels were reportedly only a few hundred meters from the governor's office on Saturday - but were pushed back by nightfall.

Afghan and US airstrikes have reportedly targeted Taliban positions and government forces say they have killed dozens of militants.

One resident, Haleem Karimi, told Agence France-Presse: "Neither the Taliban will take pity on us, nor will the government stop the bombing."

Analysis by Sikandar Karmani,

The full focus of the Taliban is now on the cities of Afghanistan. The situation is fluid but Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, where many American and British soldiers lost their lives, looks the most vulnerable right now. Pro-Taliban social media accounts have uploaded videos of their fighters in the heart of the city.

Afghan special forces are being dispatched to help push them back, but a local resident told us that even if it does, the Taliban advance is a powerful assertion of their power.

The militants are understood to have taken some places in the homes of ordinary families, which will make it difficult to remove them. There seems to be a long and bloody battle ahead.

Flights were suspended at Kandahar airport on Sunday as Taliban rockets hit the compound before dawn, causing some damage to the runway.

A Kandahar MP told the on Saturday that the city was at serious risk of being hit by the Taliban, with thousands of people already displaced and a humanitarian disaster imminent.

Gul Ahmed Kamin said the situation was worsening hour by hour and fighting within the city was the most serious in 20 years.

He said the Taliban now sees Kandahar as a major focal point, a city they want to make their temporary capital. If it fell, five or six other provinces in the region would be lost as well, Mr Kamin said.

Thousands displaced in Kandahar amid fighting between military and Taliban

He said Taliban fighters were on several sides of the city and because of the large civilian population, government forces would not be able to use heavy weapons if the terrorists were fully infiltrated.

Afghan special forces have been deployed in the economically important city of Herat and the situation appeared more stable on Sunday.

Afghan soldiers are fighting alongside veteran warlord and anti-Taliban commander, Ismail Khan, who has mobilized civilians to deal with the terrorists.

Airstrikes have also been carried out on Taliban positions outside the city.

A guard was killed on Friday outside the UN compound near the airport in what the UN described as a deliberate Taliban attack.

'Islamic Emirates'

The EU's special envoy for Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, said he believed the war was about to get worse.

He said he fears the Taliban's way of thinking now is "something they had in the past - re-establishing ... their Islamic emirate".

And the former head of the British armed forces, General David Richards, warned that the international withdrawal could demoralize the Afghan army, lead to Taliban control and possibly a renewed international terrorist threat.

Humanitarian organizations have also warned of a major crisis in the coming months as the Taliban continue their offensive - with shortages of food, water and services and overcrowding of camps for the displaced.

In November 2001, US troops and their NATO and regional allies ousted the Taliban from power.

The group was harboring Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda figures linked to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

But despite a continued international presence, billions of dollars in support and training for Afghan government forces, the Taliban regrouped and slowly gained strength.

In February 2020, then US President Donald Trump and allies agreed to a deal with the Taliban on the withdrawal of international combat forces.

This year, President Joe Biden announced that there would be a return by September.

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