The Taliban captured Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan, an Afghan provincial official and army officer said on Tuesday, with some security forces abandoning their posts and fleeing across the frontier.
The seizure of Shir Khan Bandar, in the far north of Afghanistan about 50 kilometres from Kunduz city, is the most significant gain for the Taliban since they stepped up operations on May 1 when the US began the final stages of its troop withdrawal.
“Unfortunately, this morning and after an hour of fighting the Taliban captured Shir Khan port and the town and all the border check posts with Tajikistan,” said Kunduz provincial council member Khaliddin Hakmi.
Separately, an army officer told AFP: “We were forced to leave all check posts… and some of our soldiers crossed the border into Tajikistan.”
“By the morning, they (Taliban fighters) were everywhere, hundreds of them,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the insurgents had seized the border crossing across the Pyanj River.
“Our Mujahideen are in full control of Shir Khan Bandar and all the border crossings with Tajikistan in Kunduz,” he told AFP.
MORE GAINS: Meanwhile, Taliban have reached the outskirts of five cities in the north as many districts around provincial capitals have fallen in the last few weeks, mostly in Faryab and Takhar provinces.
Lawmakers and residents warned that fighting around the cities of Maimana in Faryab, Taluqan in Takhar, Pul-e-Khumri in Baghlan, Sar-e-Pul city in Sar-e-Pul and Kunduz city in Kunduz province have raised concerns among the people.
The main route that connects Kabul with northern provinces has been closed to traffic for the last two days because of Taliban influence in Doshi district in Baghlan.
The government announced that security forces had retaken two districts in Takhar.
However, sources said that security forces left the three districts of Sholgara, Dawlat Abad and Kushinda in Balkh; the Qala-e-Zal and Imam Sahib district in Kunduz; Doshi and Julga districts in Baghlan; Aqcha district in Jawzjan; and Zazai Aryub district in the eastern province of Paktia in the last 24 hours.