Taliban insurgents seized the city of Kunduz in Northern Afghanistan on Sunday. Kunduz is the third provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in three days, but it is the first major city taken since the Taliban started an aggressive military offensive in May.
The loss of Kunduz is a stark development for the Afghan government due to its significant military and political contributions.
The Taliban succeeding in taking Sheberghan and Zaranj, capital cities in the northern and eastern provinces of the country, The New York Times reported. A fourth city, Sar-e-Pul, was close to falling Sunday as well.
Afghans inspect damaged shops after fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Taliban fighters Sunday took control of much of the capital of Kunduz province, including the governor’s office and police headquarters, a provincial council member said. (AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil) (AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil)
A Taliban flag flies in the main square of Kunduz city after fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces, in Kunduz, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Taliban fighters Sunday took control of much of the capital of northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, including the governor’s office and police headquarters, a provincial council member said. (AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil) (AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil)
“Taliban are walking in the streets of the city. Local residents are terrified,” said Sayed Asadullah Danish, a member of the Sar-e-Pul provincial council.
President Biden in April pushed back former President Donald Trump’s deadline for a military withdrawal from May to Sept. 11. The withdrawal began in May, and 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.”
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani last week blamed the United States’ “sudden” decision to withdraw its troops for the rapid collapse of security in the country.
Taliban forces continue to fight against security forces in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Helmand province. The Defense Ministry confirmed that it has carried out airstrikes on targeted Taliban positions, killing 54 fighters and wounding 23 others, German publication DW reported.
Carl Bildt, co-char of think tank the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former Swedish prime minister, tweeted that the situation in Afghanistan is “Saigon 1975 all over again.”
Ambassador Ghulam M. Isaczai, Afghanistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said the ongoing violence was “too painful to watch.”
“Afghan children are bearing the brunt of this violence unleashed by Taliban on Afghanistan. The world cannot sit on the sideline for another tragedy to unfold,” he wrote on Twitter.