Taliban capture of Jalalabad effectively leaves Kabul as the last major urban area under government control.
The Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan’s Jalalabad without a fight, according to officials and a resident, effectively leaving the capital Kabul as the last major urban area under government control.
The key eastern city, which is also the capital of Nangarhar province, fell early on Sunday morning. It’s capture followed the Taliban’s seizure of the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
The Taliban posted photos online showing them in the governor’s office in Jalalabad.
“We woke up this morning to the Taliban white flags all over the city. They entered without fighting,” said resident Ahmad Wali, confirming the Taliban’s claim on social media.
Abrarullah Murad, a legislator from the province told The Associated Press news agency that the armed group seized Jalalabad after elders negotiated the fall of the government there.
Another Jalalabad-based Afghan official told Reuters that there were no clashes in the city “because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban”.
“Allowing passage to the Taliban was the only way to save civilian lives,” the official added.
A western security official also confirmed the fall of the city, and said it put the Taliban in control of the roads connecting Afghanistan to Pakistan.
The Taliban have swept through the country in recent weeks as United States-led forces withdrew. It’s campaign accelerated to lightning speed in the last week, shocking Western countries as the Afghan military’s defences appeared to collapse.
US President Joe Biden on Saturday authorised the deployment of 5,000 troops to help evacuate citizens and ensure an “orderly and safe” drawdown of US military personnel. A US defence official said that included 1,000 newly approved troops from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Taliban fighters entered Mazar-i-Sharif on Saturday virtually unopposed as security forces escaped up the highway to neighbouring Uzbekistan, about 80 km (50 miles) to the north, provincial officials said. Unverified video on social media showed Afghan army vehicles and men in uniforms crowding the iron bridge between the Afghan town of Hairatan and Uzbekistan.
Two influential militia leaders supporting the government – Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum – also fled. Noor said on social media that the Taliban had been handed control of Balkh province, where Mazar-i-Sharif is located, due to a “conspiracy.”
In a statement late on Saturday, the Taliban said its rapid gains showed it was popularly accepted by the Afghan people and reassured both Afghans and foreigners that they would be safe.
The Islamic Emirate (Taliban) “will, as always, protect their life, property and honour and create a peaceful and secure environment for its beloved nation,” it said, adding that diplomats and aid workers would also face no problems.