A Taliban fighter guarded the entrance to the police headquarters in Ghazni on August 12, 2021, when the Taliban moved closer to the Afghan capital after taking the city of Ghazni.
AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – The State Department again warned US citizens in Afghanistan on Thursday, urging them to leave the country immediately as security conditions deteriorate amid a rapid advance by the Taliban towards the capital, Kabul.
The Taliban captured the strategically important city of Ghazni on Thursday and brought its front line within 95 miles of Kabul, an astonishing development that comes almost two weeks before US and NATO coalition forces exit.
The militants also claim to have captured Afghanistan’s third largest city, Herat, in the northwest near Iran. Fierce fighting was also reported in Kandahar, the country’s second largest city.
The US embassy warned that its ability to help American citizens in Afghanistan was “extremely limited, even in Kabul,” due to deteriorating security conditions and downsizing.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Willson speaks to the media about Operation Allies Refuge on July 30, 2021 at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Paula Bronstein | Getty Images
Since President Joe Biden’s decision in April to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have made breathtaking strides on the battlefield, with nearly two-thirds of the nation under their control.
Although the Afghan military was vastly outnumbered, the Taliban captured three Afghan provincial capitals and a local army headquarters in Kunduz on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Wednesday’s wins followed a dramatic blitz weekend in which the group captured five provincial capitals in Afghanistan.
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At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that the ongoing Taliban offensive in the war-torn country violates a commitment made by the group last year to start peace talks with the Afghan government.
“What we are seeing on the ground is that the Taliban are advancing and taking control of district and provincial centers, which clearly shows that they believe it is possible to get government through violence, brutality, violence and repression in great contradiction to their previously stated goal of actually wanting to participate in a negotiated political solution, “said Kirby.
Afghan security personnel are patrolling after regaining control of parts of the city of Herat after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces on the outskirts of Herat, 640 kilometers (397 miles) west of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, August 8, 2021.
Hamed Sarfarazi | AP
He added that while the Pentagon is concerned to see such advances by the Taliban, the Afghan military must now take advantage of nearly two decades of training from US and NATO coalition forces.
“They have the advantage in numbers, operational structure, air force and modern weapons, and it’s really about having the will and leadership to use those advantages for their own benefit,” said Kirby.
“The recipe cannot just be a permanent US presence in Afghanistan that never ends,” he added.
An Afghan special forces member takes part in a military operation against Taliban fighters in the village of Kandak Anayat in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan, on July 23, 2021.
Ajmal Kakar | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
At the White House, Biden told reporters on Tuesday that he had no regrets about his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, despite the Taliban’s shocking gains.
“Look, we’ve spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years, we’ve trained and equipped over 300,000 Afghan forces with modern equipment,” Biden said.
“Afghan leaders need to come together,” added the president. “You have to fight for yourself, fight for your nation.”