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Taliban race closer to a complete Afghan military acquisition after Jalalabad

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

Kabul: The Taliban on Sunday moved closer to a full military takeover of Afghanistan after capturing more major cities, leaving their only isolated capital, Kabul.

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Insurgents captured the key eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, just hours after capturing the northern anti-Taliban stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif – advancing the surprise defeat of government forces and warlord militias achieved in just 10 days. Happened.

“We woke up this morning to the Taliban white flags all over the city. They entered without fighting,” said Jalalabad resident Ahmad Wali, confirming a claim on social media made by the Taliban.

President Ashraf Ghani’s government appeared to be left with few options as the Taliban effectively surrounded Kabul — either prepare for a bloody fight for the capital or capitulate.

On Saturday Ghani sought to project a semblance of authority with a national address in which he spoke of “re-mobilising” the military while seeking a “political solution” to the crisis.

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But the loss of Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad are huge back-to-back blows for Ghani and his government.

It left the Taliban — who have fighters less than an hour’s drive from Kabul — holding all the cards in any negotiated surrender of the capital.

President Joe Biden ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 US troops to help secure the emergency evacuation from Kabul of embassy employees and thousands of Afghans who worked for American forces and now fear Taliban reprisals.

That was on top of the 3,000 American soldiers deployed in recent days, and 1,000 left in-country after Biden announced in May that the final withdrawal of the 20-year military presence in Afghanistan would be completed by September 11.

That decision has come under increased scrutiny given the collapse of the Afghan armed forces, but he insisted Saturday there was no choice.

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“I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth,” Biden said.

‘Crying night and day’

For Kabul residents and the tens of thousands who have sought refuge there in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of apprehension and fear.

Muzhda, 35, a single woman who arrived in the capital with her two sisters after fleeing nearby Parwan, said she was terrified.

“I am crying day and night,” she told AFP. “If the Taliban come and force me to marry, I will commit suicide.”

The Taliban imposed an ultra-austere brand of Islam on Afghanistan during their 1996-2001 rule.

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The scale and speed of their advance have shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country after toppling the insurgents in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Individual Afghan soldiers, units and even entire divisions have surrendered – handing over even more vehicles and military hardware to the Taliban for their power advances.

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