Taliban claims capture of Kandahar, second-largest city in Afghanistan
Kandahar has fallen after more than two months of fighting. Taliban has also claimed capture of Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province in the southwest near Afghanistan's western border with Iran.
Taliban on August 13, 2021 claimed capture of Kandahar, the second-largest city in Afghanistan. Kandahar is the twelfth provincial capital to fall to the Taliban, among the total 34 provincial capitals.
Kandahar has fallen after more than two months of fighting. All districts except one is under Taliban control in southern Kandahar province.
A Taliban spokesperson tweeted saying, "Kandahar is completely conquered. The Mujahideen reached Martyrs' Square in the city." The Afghan government forces appeared to have withdrawn en masse to a military facility outside the city.
Kandahar's fall strategic victory for Taliban
•The fall of Kandahar is a strategic victory, as it is home of the Taliban. Mullah Omar, the founder and first emir of the Taliban had begun his takeover of Afghanistan from Kandahar in the 1990s.
•Mullah Omar had ruled from 1996 to 2001 from Kandahar. With the fall of Kandahar, three other cities - Lashkar Gah, Tarin Kot, and Qalat- are expected to fall at any time.
•Taliban has already claimed that it has captured Lashkar Gah as it continues the rapid capture of major cities in Afghanistan. Lashkar Gah is the capital of Helmand province in the southwest near Afghanistan's western border with Iran.
•Taliban has claimed at least 12 provincial capitals in less than a week as a part of its relentless offensive in the wake of the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from war-torn Afghanistan.
Other cities that fell today
Besides Kandahar, the Taliban also took control over three other provincial capitals including Herat City, which is the country’s fourth-largest City, Qala-I-Naw in Badghis province and Ghazni City, which is on the road to Kabul.
The Herat, Ghazni, and Badghis provinces are now fully under the control of the Taliban. With this, the Taliban controls 11 provinces and 12 provincial capitals. It now controls 7 out of 9 provinces in the north, all four in the west and Kandahar and Ghazni in the south.
What is the aim of the Taliban?
The Taliban aims to re-establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Taliban Captures Pul-e-Khumri
•The Taliban on August 10, 2021 captured the eighth provincial capital in Afghanistan, Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province in the north. The city fell as the pro-government militias retreated to the Afghan army's largest base in the Kelagi desert.
•The Taliban had already gained control over six provincial capitals, mostly in the north of Afghanistan- Kunduz, Taluqan city, Sheberghan, Zaranj and Aybak, capital of Samangan province. This was followed by the capture of Farah city and Pul-e-Khumri.
•The capture of Pul-e-Khumri, the provincial capital of Baghlan province is significant as it is located about 200km from Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
•Pul-i-Khumri is on the highway that connects the northern provinces to Kabul. It will not only increase pressure on the security forces to keep the Taliban militia away from the country's capital but also pose a great risk of complete isolation of the north of the country.
•The Taliban militants have been attacking Kabul over the past few days.
Is Kabul under threat?
•Taliban is currently pushing to choke off Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan and cut its linkage with the rest of Afghanistan. The capture of Ghazni has cut off a crucial highway that linked the city with the southern provinces.
•It is expected that once the Taliban takes control over the entire south, it will move towards Kabul. Taliban has intensified its fighting to push towards the same goal.
•Kabul isn't directly under threat yet but the battles elsewhere further tighten the grip of Taliban insurgents, who are currently estimated to hold control over two-thirds of the country.
Taliban advances in Other Areas
•Taliban has been making advances on the outskirts of Faizabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan, a remote Northern Province that was considered as an anti-Taliban stronghold.
•The fighting has also intensified on the outskirts of Mazar-e-Sharif, which is the capital of Balkh province and the fourth largest city of Afghanistan.
•However, the Afghan National Security and Defence Forces (ANDSF) are determined to not let the Taliban take the city. They have successfully pushed back the insurgents' offensive and regained control over Nahr-e-Shahi.
They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation: US President Joe Biden
•US President Joe Biden on August 10, 2021 ruled out any change in the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan despite the latest advances made by the Taliban over large parts of Afghanistan.
•Biden had set the deadline for complete US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11. The United States has already withdrawn more than 90 percent of its troops from the war-torn country.
•When asked if the current plan to withdraw US troops could change at all given the current situation in Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden said 'no'.
•Biden explained saying, "Look, we spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped over 300,000 Afghan forces. Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands — lost to death and injury — thousands of American personnel. They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation."
•Biden asserted that the United States will continue to keep the commitments it made of providing close air support and making sure that their air force functions and is operable, resupplying their forces with food and equipment, and paying all their salaries. "But they've got to want to fight. They have outnumbered the Taliban,” Biden said.
•He continued by saying that he does not regret his decision but is going to continue to keep their commitment. He said that the Afghans are beginning to realize they've got to come together politically at the top.
We lost thousands of American personnel. Afghan leaders have to come together. They have to fight for themselves and the nation. We are going to continue to keep our commitments, but I do not regret my decision (on pulling out forces from Afghanistan): US President Joe Biden pic.twitter.com/pj8lXKhofX— ANI (@ANI) August 10, 2021
•The White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had informed the reporters earlier that the US had gone to Afghanistan to deliver justice to those who attacked them on September 11 and to disrupt terrorists seeking to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack the United States. “We achieved those objectives some years ago," Psaki said.
•She also noted that the United States has provided a range of assistance to the Afghan National Security Defence Forces and also proposed a significant amount of funding in the FY 2022 budget request for $3.3 billion for the Afghan Security Forces.
•She added that these are difficult decisions to make but it is time to bring our troops home. The US will continue to be a partner and supporter of Afghan Security efforts on the ground.
India starts evacuation of its diplomats from Mazar-e-Sharif
India on August 10, 2021 began the evacuation process of its diplomats and nationals from Mazar-e-Sharif, capital of Balkh province. India requested all Indian nationals in and around Mazar-e-Sharif to evacuate the city on a special flight arranged from Mazar-e-Sharif to New Delhi on August 10th. This comes a month after India undertook the evacuation of its officials and security persons from the consulate in Kandahar.
The Indian Embassy in Afghanistan has also advised Indians to make 'immediate' travel arrangements to return to India. It has 'strongly advised' Indian companies to 'immediately withdraw' their Indian employees out of project sites in Afghanistan.
Canada sending special forces to close Afghan embassy
The Canadian government will reportedly send special forces to Afghanistan to evacuate the staff at Canada’s embassy in Kabul.
US to send troops to evacuate personnel from Afghanistan
The United States will also send troops to evacuate its personnel from Afghanistan. The US Embassy in Kabul has urged Americans to evacuate Afghanistan immediately, in the wake of the capture of Kandahar. There are fears that Kabul would fall soon.
Afghanistan has been witnessing a spike in violence as the Taliban has intensified its efforts to gain control over regions in the wake of US troop withdrawal. The US troops will be out of Afghanistan by August 31, 2021, way before the deadline of September 11.