Taliban claims control over prisons in 2 chief Afghanistan cities
Taliban took control of Ghazni Thursday as part of an offensive blitz
The Taliban has claimed several quick victories in Afghanistan over the past 24 hours, including the release of prisoners inside the key cities of Kandahar and Heret, according to reports.
Insurgents moved deeper into Kandahar on Wednesday, with reports on Thursday saying forces had surrounded and attacked the general prison. A message posted to Twitter by Ahmadi, an alleged representative of the Taliban, claimed that the prison staff surrendered and the Taliban released all prisoners.
The conquest was the result of "a long siege and violent attacks," Ahmadi said. Fighting in the city remains fierce as the insurgents push to take control of the city itself, as well, Al Jazeera reported.
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The Taliban also claimed control over the prison in Herat, with all "Taliban" prisoners released there, too.
The double conquests are just the newest of several victories the Taliban has claimed as part of an offensive blitz to take control of the country. Ghazni fell Thursday – the 10th provincial capital the terrorist group has taken in just weeks.
The Taliban published videos and images online purporting to show them in Ghazni, the capital of a province with the same name.
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The entire northern part of the country has now fallen to Taliban control. Some officials estimate the Taliban has gained control of more than 65% of the country.
President Biden in April pushed back former President Donald Trump’s deadline for a U.S. military withdrawal from May to Sept. 11. The withdrawal began in May; by early July, the situation was rapidly deteriorating: The Pentagon on July 9 detailed "concerning advancement" by the Taliban in the wake of the withdrawal.
Two weeks later, the Pentagon said the withdrawal was about 95% finished while admitting the Taliban appeared to have "strategic momentum."
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Afghan security forces and the government have not responded to repeated requests for comment over the days of fighting. However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is trying to rally a counteroffensive relying on his country’s special forces, the militias of warlords and American airpower ahead of the U.S. and NATO pullout at the end of the month.
While the capital of Kabul itself has not been directly threatened in the advance, the stunning speed of the offensive raises questions about how long the Afghan government can maintain control of the slivers of the country it has left.
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The government may eventually be forced to pull back to defend the capital and just a few other cities, as the fighting displaces thousands of people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.