Kabul: After taking over the major city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday, the Taliban on Sunday took control of Afghanistan’s Jalalabad city, leaving just the capital Kabul as the last major urban area under government control.
Jalalabad, a key eastern city that is the capital of Nangarhar province, fell early on Sunday morning.
The Taliban group posted photos online showing them in the governor’s office in Jalalabad.
According to reports, the Islamist militia group seized Jalalabad after the elders negotiated the fall of the government there.
There were no clashes in the city “because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban”.
On Saturday, the Taliban entered Mazar-e-Sharif, in Balkh province, virtually unopposed as security forces fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan, about 80 km to the north. Videos on social media showed Afghan army vehicles and men in uniforms crowding an iron bridge between the Afghan town of Hairatan and Uzbekistan.
Two influential warlords supporting the Afghan government – Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum – also fled.
According to the Salam Afghanistan radio, after a failed bid to guard the city, Noor, Dostum and others escaped to Uzbekistan.
Noor claimed on social media that the Taliban had been handed control of Balkh province, where Mazar-e-Sharif is located, due to a “conspiracy”.
On Saturday at least seven provincial capitals, Mazar-e-Sharif of Balkh, Maymana of Faryab, Sharana of Paktika, Asadabad of Kunar, Mehtarlam of Laghman, Nili of Daykundi and Gardez of Paktia, fell to the Taliban.
The fall of Mazar-e-Sharif stands out in terms of its strategic importance as it lies in the heart of the northern provinces, and is the regional headquarters of the army and the main bastion of key politicians like Dostum, Noor and Muhammad Muhaqiq.
The Taliban captured all government offices, including the governor’s office, in Mazar-e-Sharif.
Earlier on Saturday, the Taliban marched on Maidan city, less than 50 km from the heavily guarded capital Kabul.
The Taliban also captured eastern Mehtarlam and southern Pul-e-Alam cities. They also took complete control of Sharana, the capital of Paktika province. “The governor’s office, police headquarters, intelligence (headquarters) and all places were ‘conquered’,” Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesperson, said on Twitter.
Visuals on social media showed hundreds of the militant group’s armed fighters in command of the main highway in Maidan Wardak province, that connects Kabul with the rest of the country’s southern and western provinces.
Making rapid gains over the past few days, the Taliban have now taken control of 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.
The other cities overrun by the Taliban included Qalat, Tarinkot, Pul-e-Alam, Kandahar, Lashkargah, Herat, Feroz Koh, Qala-e-Nau, Ghazni, Fayzabad, Aybak, Zaranj, Sheberghan, Kunduz, Pul-e-Khumri, Taluqan, and Sar-e-Pul.