The Taliban* seized four more provincial capitals on 12-13 August, including Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south, amid the militant group’s sweeping advance and just weeks before the deadline set by President Joe Biden for the completion of the US withdrawal from the Central Asian state.
To date, the Taliban has taken nearly half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and now controls more than two-thirds of the country, while the US-backed government forces have been retreating.
On 12 August, US intelligence officials warned the White House that the Afghan insurgents could take Kabul within 90 days. On the same day, the US Embassy in Afghanistan issued a security alert calling upon American citizens to “leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options”. Separately, the Pentagon announced that it would send 3,000 troops, including two Marine Corps battalions, to the Central Asian state to help evacuate the US Embassy in Kabul.
Why is the Taliban Stepping Up Its Offensive?
What strikes Afghanistan experts is that the Taliban has demonstrated the ability to push the Afghan Army back not only in rural areas, but also urban centres.
”This is a worrying development, and surprising”, notes Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, convener of Middle East Studies Forum at Australia’s Deakin University. “Their ability to capture rural regions was not a surprise, but the Afghan Army was expected to hold cities. Afghan society has gone through a…