Taliban control all key cities except Kabul: The Taliban took control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, just hours after capturing Mazar-i-Sharif’s northern anti-Taliban stronghold — a surprise to government forces and militia that achieved in just 10 days.
The Taliban on Sunday rushed closer to a full-scale military takeover of Afghanistan after seizing more major cities.
Hours after capturing Mazar-i-Sharif’s northern anti-Taliban stronghold on Sunday, the rebels took control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad — surprising government forces and soldiers in just 10 days.
“We woke up this morning to find Taliban white flags all over Jalalabad. There was no fight between them and us,” said Jalalabad resident Ahmed Wali.
With the Taliban effectively encircling Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani’s government is left with few options – prepare for or surrender to a bloody struggle for capital.
On Saturday Ghani tried to show power with a national address in which he spoke of “reassembling” the army seeking a “political solution” to the crisis.
But the defeat of Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad were huge setbacks for Ghani and his government.
It left the Taliban – combat fighters less than an hour away from Kabul – holding all the cards in the surrender of any negotiations in the capital.
President Joe Biden has ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 U.S. troops to help with the emergency evacuation of thousands of embassy employees and thousands who have served for U.S. forces and are now fearful of Taliban retaliation from Afghanistan.
It is on top of the 3,000 American troops deployed in recent days, and 1,000 left the country after Biden announced in May that the withdrawal of a 20-year military presence in Afghanistan would be completed by September 11th.
The decision came under further scrutiny due to the fall of the Afghan armed forces, but he stressed there was no choice on Saturday.
“I am the fourth president to preside over the existence of an American troop in Afghanistan – two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not send this war to fifth place,” Biden said.
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In Mazar-i-Sharif, Taliban fighters quickly took charge.
“They are parading on their vehicles and motorbikes, firing into the air during the ceremony,” said Atikullah Gayor, who lives near the city’s famous blue mosque.
Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammed Noor, who led the militia resistance in the city in support of government forces, fled to Uzbekistan, about 30 kilometers north, Noor’s aide said.
Noor later tweeted that the military had betrayed them and that they were “in a safe place”: “I have many untold stories to share in due course.”
As the Taliban closed the capital, panicked residents set up long lines outside the banks, hoping to withdraw their savings. Some branches already seemed to be running out of cash.
Residents near the Pull-e-Charkhi prison outside Kabul told AFP gunfire was heard from the facility — probably as a result of a prisoner uprising.
In his first speech to the nation after the Taliban launched their massive offensive, Ghani said he wanted to stop the violence.
“I will not allow the war imposed on the people to cause more deaths,” he said, sitting in front of the Afghan flag.
Ghani said talks were underway to “remove” the armed forces and help end the fighting, but provided some specifics on what his administration plans.
The Presidential Palace later said: “The government should soon appoint an authorized delegation and be ready for talks.”
Further details are not immediately available.