Taliban Blitz -- The Militant Group Captured the Tenth Afghan Provincial Capital on the Road to Kabul

Taliban fighters patrol Farah, Afghanistan, August 11, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

The Taliban captured a provincial capital on the road to Kabul on Thursday, the tenth the militant group has taken during a weeklong blitz, according to the Associated Press.

The city of Ghazni fell to the militant group on Thursday morning local time after “long and intense fighting,” according to Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of Ghazni provincial council, CNN reported. He said that just one unit of the Afghan intelligence and police has not been taken by the militants.

The Taliban posted videos and images online showing them in Ghazni.

Ghazni provincial council member Amanullah Kamrani reportedly told the AP that the city had been taken by insurgents, though two bases outside of the city remain under the control of government forces. Kamrani also claimed that Ghazni’s provincial governor and police chief struck a deal with the Taliban to flee after surrendering.

The AP reported that Taliban video and photos appeared to show the governor’s convoy passing Taliban fighters unstopped.

The blitz comes as the United States and NATO are set to withdraw from the country entirely after decades of war. President Ashraf Ghani is reportedly working to rally a counteroffensive using his country’s special forces, the militias of warlords and American airpower before the scheduled pullout at the end of the month.

The loss of the city, which sits 93 miles south of Kabul along a major road that connects the capital to the country’s southern provinces, is a strategic setback for Afghan government forces as the Taliban now controls key locations both north and south of the capital.

The earlier capture of areas of the Baghlan province — north of Kabul — sounded alarms among U.S. officials who consider the location to be essential for the defense of the capital, a Biden administration official reportedly told CNN.

The latest U.S. intelligence assessment warns that Kabul could be isolated by the Taliban in the next 30 to 60 days and that the Taliban could gain full control of the country in just months, according to reports.

Discussing the situation during a press briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki implied that a commitment to international law might deter the Taliban.

“The Taliban must decide if they want to be members of the international community,” she said.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with diplomats from China, Pakistan and Russia in Doha to warn the Taliban they could be considered international pariahs if they continue their offensive, according to a State Department spokesman.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned of a huge surge in people fleeing their homes since May, with 5,800 people leaving to Kabul between July 1 and August 5. Nearly 390,000 people have been displaced due to conflict across the country since the beginning of the year.

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