Afghanistan's Taliban close in on northern provincial capital

Afghanistan's Taliban close in on northern provincial capital
A video shared widely on social media appears to show some provincial officials fleeing the capital of Badakhshan province, where the Taliban are said to have seized ten districts - eight without a fight - in recent days.
3 min read
04 July, 2021
The Taliban appear close to overrunning Faizabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan [Getty Images]

The Taliban appear to be closing in on a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan as it continues to make more territorial gains, while US troops continue their pull-out.

Some 300 Afghan government personnel abandoned the province of Badakhshan for neighbouring Tajikistan on Saturday evening, Tajikistan's State Committee for National Security said in a statement.

By Sunday, as a security meeting was being held over plans to secure the perimeter of the capital, Faizabad, some provincial officials fled to the capital Kabul, Mohib al-Rahman, a provincial council member told The Associated Press.

The recent gains in Badakhshan have mostly come to the Taliban without a fight, according to Rahman, who said that in the last three days, 10 districts had fallen to the Taliban - 8 of them without a fight.

Ezzatullah Mehrdad, an Afghan-based journalist tweeted a video purportedly showing the provincial officials boarding a plane, with the caption: "Faizabad could become the first provincial capital falling to the Taliban"

Since June, Afghanistan's government has resurrected militias with a brutal history of violence to fight alongside the beleaguered government troops.

While the government has hailed the successes of the so-called "people uprising forces" in taking back control of Badakhshan's districts, Rahman told AP that many of the militias put up only a half-hearted fight.

But Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal vowed major Afghan city centres “will never collapse” to the Taliban, saying provinces were a "red line”.  He said that security forces would "thwart such attempts".

On Saturday, the Afghan Ministry of Defense tweeted that 9 Taliban "terrorists" were killed in an airstrike targeting the outskirts of Faizabad. It is not possible to verify these claims. 

The Taliban have pressed on with their campaign to capture territory across Afghanistan's rural areas since early May, when the US military began withdrawing after a presence that lasted two decades.

The areas under Taliban control in the north are increasingly strategic, running along Afghanistan's border with Central Asian states. Last month the religious movement took control of Imam Sahib, a town in Kunduz province opposite Uzbekistan and gained control of a key trade route.

The US has refused to give a clear date for a final withdrawal.