Taliban fighters armed with heavy weaponry took over the capital of the northern Jawzjan province, Sheberghan on Saturday afternoon. This comes only a day after they captured the south-western financial hub of Zaranj in Nimroz.
This is the second provincial capital that the fighters have taken over as they continue to advance in the urban parts of the country.
The deputy governor of Sheberghan, Qader Malia, said that government forces had treated to the outskirts of the city where they were preparing to defend themselves.
A statement from the head of the local provincial council, Babur Eshchi gives more insight into the attack. He said that the city has been under attack for more than 10 days, but the main assault began around 4am and the city fell at around 1pm.
It has been reported that the insurgent group has also entered Kunduz in the north of the country on Saturday evening. The Afghan government still holds key areas of the city, and are engaged in heavy clashes with the group. Members of the Kunduz provincial council say that security forces have retreated to the airport.
Afghan Special Forces commander, Taj Mohammad, that the insurgents have suffered “heavy casualties” in Kunduz.
Lawmakers are reporting that the Taliban have also captured the capital city of the Sar-e Pol province, Sari Pul, in northern Afghanistan. Only the airport is in control of the government, and the rest has fallen under the control of the terrorist group.
Countless videos on social media show the Taliban rounding up guns from the local forces in Sheberghan.
Videos of policemen surrendering in Sar-e Pol are also showing up.
The US embassy in Afghanistan condemned the attacks on Saturday
In response, President Joe Biden has sent B-52 Bombers and Spectre gunships to target the Taliban. They are supported by the AC-130 Spectre gunships which are armed with a 25mm Gatling gun, a 40mm Bofors cannon and a 105mm M102 cannon, which can provide pinpoint accurate fire from the air.
According to Fawad Awan, a deputy spokesman for the Defence Ministry, the terrorists suffered heavy casualties as a result of the US airstrike. “More than 200 terrorist Taliban were killed in Sheberghan city after air forces targeted their gathering and hideouts today evening. A large amount of their weapons and ammunition and 100s of their vehicles were destroyed as a result of the airstrikes,” he said.
Violence has escalated across Afghanistan after US and other international forces began to withdraw their troops from the country, following 20 years of military operations.
Sheberghan is considered an important location as the city is the home to notorious warlord and former Afghan Vice-President, Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose supporters have been leading the battle against the insurgents. Pictures on social media claim that the Taliban have infiltrated the Dostum’s palace and even stole his military uniform.
The former Vice-President himself is in Kabul currently.
People in Sheberghan said the city was almost empty on Saturday afternoon and many residents had fled to neighbouring provinces.
“They are freely patrolling in the city, but there is still sporadic gunfire in parts of the city,” one resident said. “There are few people out on [the] streets. Those who came back to their businesses are very scared as Taliban are in control now.”
The Taliban have also released hundreds of inmates from the provincial prison in the early hours of Saturday.
In a statement made by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan, calls “upon all sides in Afghanistan to eschew the military approach and work together to secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement. It is equally important to remain cognisant of spoilers, both within and outside.”