The Taliban have captured a key district in their former stronghold of the Kandahar province after fierce fighting with government forces in Afghanistan, news agencies reported on Sunday. The group captured the Panjwai district in the southern province of Kandahar just two days after the US-allied forces withdrew from Bagram Air Base near Kabul.
Panjwai district has been the Taliban’s target for a long time, given its proximity to Kandahar city. The fall of the Panjwai district reportedly sent scores of families fleeing from the area as the extremist group aims to impose a harsh version of Islamic sharia law, which it calls “genuine Islamic system”.
“The Taliban have captured the district police headquarters and governor’s office building,” Panjwai district governor Hasti Mohammad said Afghan forces told news agency AFP.
The Taliban insurgents have made massive strides throughout the country after US troops began to pull out following President Joe Biden’s announcement in April. The final phase of US troop withdrawal has provided a fillip to the Taliban’s campaign to capture territories across Afghanistan’s rural areas.
After Panjwai fell to the Taliban, Kandahar provincial council head accused the government forces, weakened due to US troops’ pull out, of “intentionally withdrawing” from the battlefield. The Taliban now control around 100 out of all 421 districts and district centres in Afghanistan, with Panjwai being the fifth district in Kandahar to fall to the group in recent weeks.
There have also been reports of Afghan forces fleeing across the northern border into Tajikistan. Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security said in a statement that more than 300 Afghan government troops crossed over the border at about 6:30pm local time on Saturday. They were allowed into the country “[g]uided by the principles of humanism and good neighborliness,” the Tajik authorities said.
(With agency inputs)