KABUL (Dispatches) – The Taliban Saturday captured Sheberghan city in Jawzjan, the deputy governor said, the second Afghan provincial capital to fall to the militants in less than 24 hours.
“The (government) forces and officials have retreated to the airport,” Jawzjan deputy governor Qader Malia told AFP.
The city is home to notorious warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, who only returned to Afghanistan this week from medical treatment in Turkey.
The Taliban have gained vast parts of rural Afghanistan since launching a series of offensives in May.
On Friday, Zaranj city in Nimroz fell to the Taliban “without a fight”, according to its deputy governor, becoming the first provincial capital to be taken by the militants.
There was more resistance in Sheberghan, several sources told AFP, but an aide to Dostum confirmed the city had been taken.
Numerous videos have emerged showing American-made military vehicles and equipment used by the Taliban in the newly-captured southwestern Afghan province of Nimroz as the militant group ramps up offensives to seize further territory across the conflict-ridden country.
Video footage shared on Twitter and other social media networks on Friday displayed the Taliban militants making victory laps in U.S.-made Humvees after seizing the city of Zaranj.
Multiple videos circulating online also showed the aftermath of the assault on the southwestern Afghan province, including Humvees flying the Taliban’s flag and the militants in possession of U.S. weaponry.
The UN special envoy for Afghanistan on Friday questioned the Taliban’s commitment to a political settlement, telling the UN Security Council the war has entered a “deadlier and more destructive phase” with more than 1,000 civilians killed in the past month during a Taliban offensive.
“A party that was genuinely committed to a negotiated settlement would not risk so many civilian casualties, because it would understand that the process of reconciliation will be more challenging, the more blood is shed,” Deborah Lyons said.
“To attack urban areas is to knowingly inflict enormous harm and cause massive civilian casualties. Nonetheless, the threatening of large urban areas appears to be a strategic decision by the Taliban, who have accepted the likely carnage that will ensue,” she said.
Talks between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators started last year in the Qatari capital of Doha, but have not made any substantive progress.