Taliban claim control of Kandahar: The Taliban have claimed control of Kandahar, the second-largest city in Afghanistan.
The city was once a stronghold of the Taliban and strategically important as a major trading center.
Several cities fell into the most dramatic successes on Thursday.
The U.S. says it is sending nearly 3,000 troops back to Afghanistan to help evacuate staff from the U.S. embassy.
The United States has said it is sending troops to Kabul airport to help evacuate “significant” diplomatic personnel on special flights.
The UK says it is deploying nearly 600 troops on a short-term basis to provide support to British citizens who have left the country. The number of staff working at the British Embassy in Kabul has been reduced to one major team.
The rebels seized new territory as the U.S. and other foreign forces withdrew after 20 years of military operations.
Within hours of each other on Thursday, some important cities in Afghanistan were captured — Herat, Ghazni, and the Kala-i-Naw Taliban.
A Taliban spokesman also claimed that “Kandahar was completely conquered”, but this was not confirmed.
Sources told the Media that Lashkar Gah, the southern capital of Helmand province, had also been taken over by militants, but this had not been confirmed.
The Taliban now control most of northern Afghanistan and one-third of the country’s regional capitals.
Concerns are growing that terrorists will continue their lightning-fast attacks towards the capital Kabul, where thousands of civilians have fled violent street fighting.
“The pace of progress of the Taliban has shocked even experienced military analysts,” said GTM South Asia editor Anbarson Etirajan.
Why is Kandahar so important?
Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and a former stronghold – gaining control of the city will be an important gift for terrorists.
They occupied the suburbs for several weeks before attacking the center.
On Wednesday, the Taliban stormed the Kandahar Central Jail, and on Thursday, it was reported that pictures on social media showed rebels in the city center.
A resident told the AFP news agency that government forces appeared to have withdrawn en masse from the military facility outside the southern city.
Kandahar is considered strategically important as it is an international airport, agricultural and industrial production and one of the major commercial centers in the country.
Ghazni, who was captured on Thursday, said the significant gain for the Taliban was on the Kabul-Kandahar motorway, which connects the militant strongholds in the south with the capital, Kabul.
Meanwhile, Herat, the ancient Silk Road city, was besieged for weeks before security forces retreated to Army barracks. Video on social media shows rebels firing their weapons and running across Central Street and the Taliban flag was seen flying over police headquarters.
“Everything changed in the afternoon. They (Taliban) entered the city in a hurry. They hoisted their flags in every corner of the city,” Herat resident Masoom John told AFP.
Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Kabul reported that the Taliban were executing surrendering Afghan soldiers, which could be “extremely disturbing and could lead to war crimes.”
More than 1,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last month, according to the UN.
Thousands of people have been internally displaced from the northern provinces this week, heading to Kabul for safety. According to Save the Children, 72,000 children have come to the capital in recent days and are sleeping mostly on the streets.
Makeshift camps have been set up in Scrubland on the outskirts of the capital, with information that some are sleeping on the streets or in abandoned warehouses.
“We have no money to buy bread, or to buy medicine for my child,” a 35-year-old street vendor who fled Kunduz province after the Taliban set his house on fire told the GTM.
In response to the uprising, the German government warned that it would suspend $ 500m (m 360m) of its annual financial aid to Afghanistan if the Taliban gained full control of the country.
Germany has also stopped forcibly deporting Afghan nationals whose asylum applications have failed. The French and Danish governments say they will follow suit.
What is the Afghan government doing?
The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has failed to unite the broken Afghan militia against the Taliban.
On Wednesday, he flew to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to try to mobilize pro-Taliban stronghold anti-government forces.
He also held crisis talks with ethnic Uzbek warrior Abdul Rashid Dostum and prominent ethnic Tajik leader Atta Mohammed Noor about defending the city.
Over the years, Mr. Ghani has tried to sideline war veterans in an attempt to boost the Afghan National Army, and now he is turning to them in his time of need, the GTM’s Etirajan Anbarason said. Earlier this week, the president also agreed to arm a pro-government militia.