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Taliban captures several districts in Afghanistan

Tajikistan : Several districts of northern Afghanistan were captured by the Taliban overnight, according to officials. A small contingent of Afghan forces fled cross-border into Tajikistan to escape the Taliban, officials said. As Taliban forces advanced in the north of Afghanistan, roughly 1,000 Afghan security officers fled to Tajikistan, the Tajik border guard service said. As foreign troops – who have been stationed in Afghanistan for about 20 years – near their complete withdrawal, the crossings highlight the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country.

As part of a plan to withdraw all foreign troops from Afghanistan by September 11, hundreds of Afghan security force members fled swift Taliban advances in the north two days before Sunday’s retreats, Reuters reported. Taliban advances have occurred in six key areas of the northern province of Badakshan, which borders Tajikistan and China.  A conversation between Ashraf Ghani and his Tajik counterpart, President Emomali Rakhmon, was conducted over the phone on Sunday.

In a statement, the Tajik president’s office said it had paid special attention to the escalation of violence in Afghanistan’s northern areas. However, the Taliban has not reached an understanding with the Afghan government to cease attacks on US service members. US-brokered peace talks, which take place sporadically in the Qatari capital Doha, have so far failed to produce results.

Around 6:30 pm local time Saturday, Afghan troops crossed the border. Tajikistan allowed the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to enter the country under the principles of humanism and good neighborliness, according to the statement.

Afghanistan’s Taliban have made significant gains since US President Joe Biden announced the end of Afghanistan’s ‘forever war’ in mid-April. Their most significant gains have been in the northern half of the country, a traditional stronghold of the US-allied warlords who helped defeat them in 2001. Taliban control roughly a third of Afghanistan’s 421 districts and district centers.

In Badakhshan’s northeastern province, gains to the insurgent movement have largely been made without much struggle, said provincial council member Mohib-ul Rahman. As a result, the Taliban has succeeded in capturing the majority of the districts without much resistance, Rahman said. In the last three days, 10 districts fell to Taliban—eight without fighting, he said.

The Afghan Army, Police, and Intelligence surrendered their outposts and fled to Faizabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan, said Rahman. Early Sunday, while a security meeting was taking place to determine how to strengthen the perimeter around the capital, some senior provincial officials were leaving Faizabad for Kabul, he said. Late in June, the Afghan government resurrected militias known for brutality in supporting the beleaguered Afghan forces, but Rahman says many militias in Badakhshan districts did not put up a full fight.

Afghanistan’s border with Central Asian states runs through the areas under Taliban control in the north. Imam Sahib, a town in Kunduz province opposite Uzbekistan, was taken by the religious movement last month. The inroads in Badakhshan are particularly noteworthy as it is the home province of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011. Salahuddin Rabbani, his son, is a member of the current High Council for National Reconciliation.

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Former President Asif Ali Zardari also led Jamiat-e-Islami, the party of anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by a suicide bomber two days before the September 11 attacks. In a statement released Saturday, the Interior Ministry said the defeats were temporary but did not specify how they would regain control. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the fall of the districts and said most had fallen without a fight. Taliban videos from previous surrenders show Afghan soldiers taking transportation money and returning home.



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