Herat falls to the Taliban, leaving them in a powerful position to leverage force against the government of Afghanistan.
In the past week, the Taliban has stormed and taken 11 of the 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan in a single blitz. They have seized government buildings blockaded major roadways. Thousands have evacuated from the seized cities to avoid becoming subject to the Taliban’s oppressive leadership, which so far has included public amputations, stonings, and beheadings and a total abolishment of rights for women.
The Taliban took Herat, the third-largest city in Afghanistan, after keeping it under siege for several weeks. Afghani forces were briefly assisted by the arrival of wardlord Ismail Khan and his private army, but now Khan has vanished, formerly detained Taliban prisoners have been freed, and Taliban forces are occupying the major government buildings.
Nearby Ghazni, another provincial capital, has also fallen. With its capture, the Taliban now controls the crucial highway that links the Afghan capitol of Kabul with the country’s southern provinces. Without it, moving and resupplying government forces will be much more difficult.
A Ghazni provincial council member, Amanullah Kamrani, is alleging that Ghazni’s provincial governor and police chief made a private deal with the Taliban to be allowed to depart freely after surrendering the city.
In all cities, the blitz has included civilian deaths. According to a source in Kandahar, where more Taliban prisoners were freed, neither side exercised any care in regard to civilian lives.
“The Taliban used civilian houses to protect themselves, and the government, without paying any attention to civilians, carried out airstrikes,” said the source.
The U.S. Air Force is also carrying out strikes, both to defend Afghan troops and to dislodge the Taliban from their new holdings before they can become entrenched or expand further.
No one is optimistic that the Taliban will rejoin stalled peace talks in Qatar, even as the Afghan government considers offering a sharing of power.