The Taliban on Thursday (August 12) further strengthened its grip on Afghanistan by taking control of Ghazni city, a critical entry point to capital Kabul, which is now just 150 kms away. The US fears that the Afghan forces may lose control of Kabul in the next three months.
Ghazni, which connects Kabul to another important city Kandahar, is the 10th provincial capital to be captured by the Taliban this week. About 1/3rd of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals are now under their rule.
News agency AFP confirmed the news with Taliban representatives. Ghazni provincial head Nasir Ahmad Faqiri also told the news agency that Taliban now has control over Ghazni’s governor office, police headquarters and the prison.
The Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani has lost 10 cities since August 1. Before Kabul, the Taliban may go for Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, which is known as a strong anti-Taliban base. Ghani was in Mazar-i-Sharif on Wednesday to gather support of locals, including warlords. Ironically, Ghani has been keeping these warlords at bay for all these years to strengthen the Afghan Army. Now, desperate to retain power, he has decided to team up with everyone and anyone who can pick up arms and fight.
Reuters quoted a US defence official to suggest that the Taliban could capture areas around Kabul in a month’s time and seize control of the Afghan capital within 90 days.
Has Ashraf Ghani offered peace deal to Taliban?
News agency AFP reported on Thursday that negotiators, on behalf of the Afghan government, have offered the Taliban a power-sharing deal in return for an end to fighting in the country. There is no official confirmation though from either side,
Meanwhile, the Afghan Airforce, partially supported by the US fighter jets, seems to be trying its best, but the fall of Ghazni will make its job much more difficult.
In another development, President Ashraf Ghani has replaced Afghan army chief General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai with Hibatullah Alizai, the commander of the Special Operations Corps.
Common man suffers the most
According to United Nations, about 1,000 civilians have died in the past one month. Many from the northern province of Balkh have been displaced and are seeking refuge in and around Kabul. The Afghan government is trying to accommodate them in make-shift camps. “We have no money to buy bread, or get some medicine for my child,” a 35-year-old street vendor, who fled Kunduz province, told the BBC.