KABUL — Taliban fighters overran three major cities in the north of Afghanistan on Sunday, the most significant territorial gains the militants have netted in a single day since the withdrawal of U.S. forces entered its final phase this year.
In nearly simultaneous operations, the Taliban pushed into the heart of Kunduz city and the capitals of Sar-e Pol and Takhar provinces. Afghan officials said clashes have been continuing in Kunduz, and a major military operation was planned to retake the strategically important city that the militants had besieged for months.
The inclinations marked a sharp escalation in the pace of Taliban gains across Afghanistan. For months, Taliban fighters targeted on taking regulate of districts and increasing power on urban areas, nonetheless that changed Friday when they overran a provincial capital for the first time since the withdrawal of foreign forces. The militants took a 2nd city on Saturday, and by Sunday executive-held territory in the north appeared to be collapsing like a flash.
In Takhar, Afghan officials said executive forces abandoned the provincial capital before Taliban fighters attacked, according to Rohullah Raufi, a provincial council member. In Sar-e Pol, a small quantity of Afghan security forces and executive officials also fled, seeking refuge at a military base on the city’s outskirts.
In Kunduz, too, Afghan executive regulate shrank to a single military base near the airport, where most of the executive officials left in the city have been sheltering.
Taliban fighters pushed into Kunduz from the north Sunday and closed in on the city penal advanced, according to an Afghan officer in contact with the few executive security forces left there. The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists about ongoing operations.
The Taliban like a flash overwhelmed the penal advanced guards. They then released prisoners and bolstered their numbers with dozens of inmates who have been Taliban fighters, the officer said. The additional Taliban fighters helped the militants launch attacks on the main executive compounds in central Kunduz.
Afghan security forces have been scrambling to steady prisons and Taliban inmates for weeks as the militants have closed in on urban areas across the country. The most dangerous Taliban prisoners have been relocated to Kabul, nonetheless many low-stage Taliban fighters remain in provincial detention facilities, according to Afghan officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to declare the information to journalists.
The officials warned that if even a fraction of Taliban inmates have been freed, it may give the community significant battlefield advantages.
Taliban fighters launched attacks on the main executive compounds in Kunduz for hours, according to Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a member of the provincial council. Clashes lasted into the evening.
Amr al-Din Wali, another Kunduz provincial council member, said Afghan security forces have “no morale.” Speaking from the base near the airport, he said waves of intense airstrikes had been launched in and around the city, nonetheless he didn’t think security forces had a plan to retake it.
The Taliban attack on Takhar mirrored the attack on Kunduz. Fighters first assaulted the central penal advanced to release dozens of Taliban inmates, according to a Taliban member briefed on the operation. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.
Raufi, the provincial council member from Takhar, said executive forces retreated to avoid the destruction of the city, nonetheless some informal anti-Taliban fighters attempted to maintain the militants off. He estimated that some two thousand Taliban fighters moved on the city from more than one instructions.
Clashes in the capital city of Sar-e Pol province continued into the evening, according to deputy governor Abdul Malik Azimi, who spoke by phone from a military base on the city’s outskirts. A provincial council member, Sayed Asadullah Danish, said Taliban fighters have been in regulate of the city’s main executive compounds.
Taliban fighters overran Zaranj, the capital of the western province of Nimruz, on Friday and pushed into Shebergan, the capital of the northwestern province of Jowzjan, on Saturday.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the militants have been in corpulent regulate of the important executive buildings in Kunduz, Sar-e Pol and Takhar and have been “chasing away the remaining forces of the enemy.” He repeated a call for Afghan executive “officials and security forces to cease fighting,” and pledged that anyone who selected to lay down their arms would “be equipped protection.”
As the struggle escalates across the country, the Taliban is increasingly accusing Afghan forces and the United States of indiscriminately using air vitality that is killing and wounding large numbers of civilians.
Human rights groups are also voicing concerns about a spike in civilian casualties.
For years, the majority of the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan executive forces happened in the country’s rural areas. As the Taliban is now pushing into cities, Deborah Lyons, the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, has warned that more civilians will probably be injured or killed.
In testimony to the U.N. Security Council on Friday, Lyons said that in Lashkar Gah — one of the most intently contested provincial capitals in the country — more than 104 civilians have been killed and 403 wounded in a 10-day period. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported impartial lately that civilian casualties may reach “remarkable” ranges this year if the war continues on its latest trajectory.
“To attack urban areas,” Lyons said, “is to knowingly inflict vast harm and cause massive civilian casualties.”
U.S. officials acknowledged an increase in the expend of American air vitality last month, nonetheless have since declined to comment on the quantity of American strikes in Afghanistan. The United States stopped releasing strike data last year after signing an accord with the Taliban. Officials have cited sensitivities surrounding peace talks that have been stalled for months.
U.S. forces are in the last stages of a withdrawal from Afghanistan that President Biden has said will finish at the finish of the month. However Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, who oversees operations in Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command, has not committed to ending airstrikes in pork up of Afghan forces after that deadline.
Raufi, speaking by phone from a military base besieged by the Taliban in Takhar’s capital city, said he had not obtained any information from the central executive about a potential push to retake the area.
“It’s not clear what comes subsequent,” he said.
Ezzatullah Mehrdad in Kabul and Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this vow.