This Saturday (7), the fundamentalist Taliban group took control of the city of Sheberghan, in northern Afghanistan. It is the second provincial capital to fall to the rebel group in less than 24 hours, in an offensive to take control of Afghanistan after the United States announced it would withdraw its military troops from the country after two decades of war.
The takeover of Sheberghan was confirmed to the France Presse news agency by the vice-governor of Jawzjan province, Qader Malia, who said officials and the Afghan army fled after the rebels advanced. .
On Friday (6), the Taliban had already seized the country’s first provincial capital, Zaranj, capital of Nimroz, in the southwest of the state and near the Iranian border across the country in an attempt to defend d ‘other cities.
The loss of Sheberghan represents yet another setback for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, democratically elected and supported by Western countries.
The government has called on former warlords and various militias across the country to try to stop the advance of the insurgents. The province of Jawzjan is the stronghold of Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostom, leader of an Uzbek militia known for its cruelty.
An adviser to Marshal Dostom also confirmed Sheberghan’s downfall. “Security forces and officials retreated to an area about 20 kilometers from the city. It was planned, they took enough ammunition to defend themselves from a Taliban attack,” the adviser said.
Since May, the Taliban have taken control of vast rural areas and crucial border posts in a blitz attack launched after the announcement of the withdrawal of international troops, which is expected to end on August 31. The move was criticized by Ghani’s government, which blamed the United States for the enemy’s military advance.
After encountering little resistance in rural areas, for several years they led the offensive towards large urban centers, surrounding several provincial capitals and taking control of two of them.
The capture of Zaranj on Friday (6) is of little strategic importance, but it sends a warning signal to other towns which are surrounded by the armed group. A spokesperson for Nimroz police told Reuters government reinforcements were needed to defeat the invaders. Taliban sources told the same agency that the group was celebrating Zaranj’s takeover and that the conquest boosted the morale of its fighters in other provinces.
On social networks, images disseminated by the Taliban show a good reception from the population of Zaranj, a city seriously affected by crime. The footage shows the Taliban waving their flags in military vehicles while being cheered by young people and children. However, it is not clear whether there is real support or whether the population welcomes the rebels out of fear and desire for survival.
The group even claimed that it had released all of Zaranj’s prisoners. Another video posted on Twitter, the authenticity of which could not be confirmed, shows people looting government offices, stealing chairs, tables and televisions.
A Nimroz official, who asked not to be identified, said the country’s security forces were demoralized by Taliban propaganda and that even before the attacks some of the military had lowered their weapons, removed their uniforms. and fled.
From Kunduz, a northern town under siege by the Taliban for weeks, activist Rasikh Marof told AFP by phone that fighting broke out last night in the center of the city, but that the Taliban did not gained ground again. He said the rebels used mortars and heavy weapons, and the government responded with airstrikes. “Many stores have closed and people are locked in their homes for protection,” said the activist.
According to Ehsanullah Fazli, chief of health in Kunduz province, the city’s main hospital has received 38 wounded civilians and 11 dead since fighting resumed last night. “The ambulances cannot move because of the fighting,” he added. The numbers can increase during the day, Fazli explained.
The Taliban also carried out attacks in the capital, Kabul. On Friday, they killed the head of the central government’s Media and Information Center, Dawa Khan Menapal. Three days earlier, the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack on the home of Defense Minister General Bismillah Mohammadi in Kabul, which left eight people dead – the minister survived. On Thursday, the district chief of Sayed Abad was assassinated in the capital.
The episodes are part of a series of killings committed by the Islamic fundamentalist group to weaken Ashraf Ghani. Dozens of activists, journalists, bureaucrats, judges and public figures who fought to maintain the current regime have been killed by the Taliban in recent weeks.