The hardline Islamist Taliban movement has now taken the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. Two local council members and a German news agency resident confirmed on Sunday that the provincial capital, Nangarhar, was occupied by the Islamists without a fight. Thus the government loses the penultimate city in the country still under its control. A possible attack on their last stronghold, Kabul, may come soon. It was only Saturday evening when the Taliban captured the important city of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north rather without a fight. German soldiers were stationed there until the end of June.
“The fight will be futile.”
One resident said the Islamists entered Jalalabad, an economically important city of 280,000 residents, at 6 a.m. (local time). They didn’t bother anyone and were going to tell people not to steal. The resident said that the soldiers who saw them disarmed and sent them back to their homes.
Two regional councils said there had been no fighting. “The fight would be pointless.” Pictures spread on social media showed about a dozen Taliban fighters in the provincial governor’s office. According to unconfirmed reports, the Islamists also took control of other areas of Nangarhar province. It will only be a matter of time before the main land connection to Pakistan that runs through the province comes under their control.
It is doubtful whether Kabul can defend itself
The loop around the capital, Kabul, is somewhat closed. President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday appointed Sami Sadat, the former commander of the army’s 215th Corps in charge of southern Afghanistan – now the entire Taliban district – as the new security officer for the city of Kabul.
It is doubtful whether Kabul’s new representative, Sadat, will have the opportunity to strengthen the forces and lines of defense of the capital. It is unknown how many of the 300,000-strong security forces on paper – the army and the police – have since left service. On Saturday, Ghani said in a televised address that he wanted to “remobilize” the security forces.
After the recent surrender of many provincial capitals without a fight, it is also unclear whether the security forces in Kabul will oppose the Taliban. It is also unclear how long Ghani can hold out given the volatile situation. On Saturday, he said he would “soon” come up with a plan to prevent further bloodshed and destruction. He had not entered into speculation about his resignation.
The seizure of power is unlikely to stop
In the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, there can also be local employees of the German Bundeswehr. They fear the Taliban’s retaliation against them. Many have already moved to Kabul in the past few weeks in light of the increased danger. A former local employee of the German army in Kabul said his family had been crying with fear since they heard the city had fallen. They assumed that Kabul would soon be captured. Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analyst Networks think tank said it was “extremely unlikely” that developments would turn around.
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