Taliban seize province near Kabul, launch multi-pronged attack on Mazar-e-Sharif

Prime News, International (Kabul), August 14:- The Taliban seized a province just south of Afghanistan’s capital and launched a multi-pronged assault early Saturday on Mazar-e-Sharif, a major city in the north defended by powerful former warlords, Afghan officials said.

Homa Ahmadi, a lawmaker from Logar, says the Taliban control the entire province, including its capital, and reached a district in the neighboring Kabul province on Saturday. That puts the insurgents less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the nation’s capital.

The Taliban have also captured much of northern, western and southern Afghanistan less than three weeks before the United States is set to withdraw its last troops.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for the provincial governor in northern Balkh province, meanwhile said the Taliban attacked the city of Mazar-e-Sharif from several directions, setting off heavy fighting on its outskirts. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had flown to Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday to rally the city’s defenses, meeting with several militia commanders allied with the government.

The Taliban captured much of southern Afghanistan in recent days in a rapid offensive that has raised fears of a full takeover. Their lightning advance has left the Western-backed government in control of a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

The withdrawal of foreign forces and the swift retreat of Afghanistan’s own troops — despite hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. aid over the years — has raised fears the Taliban could return to power or the country could be plunged into civil war.

The first Marines from a contingent of 3,000 arrived on Friday to help partially evacuate the U.S. Embassy. The rest are set to arrive by Sunday, and their deployment has raised questions about whether the administration will meet its Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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