Kabul (AP) – The militant Islamist Taliban have now taken over the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. The provincial capital Nangarhar was captured by the Islamists without a fight.
Two provincial councilors and a resident of the German news agency confirmed this on Sunday. The government thus loses the penultimate city in the country that is still under its control. A possible attack on their last bastion, Kabul, could soon take place. It was not until Saturday evening that the Taliban took the important city of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north more or less without a fight. German soldiers were stationed there until the end of June.
The Islamists entered Jschlalabad, an economically important city of 280,000 inhabitants, at 6 a.m. (local time), one resident said. They wouldn’t bother anyone and would have told people not to steal. Soldiers who saw them disarmed them and sent them home, the resident said.
The ring around the capital Kabul is closed
Two provincial councils said there had been no fighting. “Fighting would have been pointless.” Photos shared on social media showed about a dozen Taliban fighters in the provincial governor’s office. According to unconfirmed reports, the Islamists also took over other districts in Nangarhar province. It would therefore be only a matter of time before a main land link to Pakistan through the province would also come under their control.
The ring around the capital Kabul is more or less closed. President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday appointed Sami Sadat, the young former commander of the 215th Army Corps in charge of southern Afghanistan — now almost entirely a Taliban territory — as the new security official for the city of Kabul.
It remains to be seen whether Kabul’s new representative, Sadat, will have the opportunity to bolster the armed forces and defenses for the capital. It is not known how many of the 300,000-strong security forces on paper — the military and police — have since left the service. Ghani said in a televised address on Saturday that he wanted to “remobilize” the security forces.
Multiple provincial capital surrenders without a fight
After the recent surrender of several provincial capitals without a fight, it is also unclear whether the security forces in Kabul would resist the Taliban. It is also unclear how long Ghani will last given the explosive situation. He had said on Saturday that he would come up with a plan “soon” to prevent further bloodshed and destruction. He had entered no speculations about his resignation.
Given the lightning-fast conquest, the federal government is working under great pressure to prepare an evacuation operation in the capital Kabul, which was secured by the Bundeswehr. German nationals and Afghan local personnel are being rushed out of the country early this week.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Bild am Sonntag that the most important thing was the rapid evacuation of German diplomats and other workers. “We will not run the risk of our people falling into the hands of the Taliban. We are prepared for all scenarios.”
According to information from the newspaper, the Air Force will fly to Kabul next Monday with military transporters of the type A400M. There will probably be stops in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. According to “BamS”, passengers will then have to travel on to Germany with charter aircraft.
Fears retaliation from the Taliban
In Mazar-i-Sharif, the Bundeswehr had until recently a large field camp at Camp Marmal near the airport. Until the summer about 1,000 German soldiers were stationed there. At the end of June, the last remaining soldiers in four military aircraft were flown out overnight. The Bundeswehr recently trained Afghan security forces as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission.
Sabiullah Kakar’s provincial council said Mazar-i-Sharif was under complete control of the Islamists. The 209th Army Corps on the outskirts of the city also fell due to a “deal” with the Taliban. Photos of the Taliban flying their flag at the famous Blue Mosque were shared on social media.
In Mazar-i-Sharif there could also be local forces of the Bundeswehr. They are afraid of retaliation from the Taliban against them. Many had already moved to Kabul in recent weeks because of the increasing danger. A former local Bundeswehr employee in Kabul said his family had cried with fear since news of the city’s fall had reached them. They assumed that Kabul would soon be taken. Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig of the think tank Afghanistan Analyst Networks said it was “very, very unlikely” that developments could turn around.
Due to the swift capture of the militant Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan, 84 soldiers fled to neighboring Uzbekistan in Central Asia. The Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this on Sunday in the capital Tashkent. Afghan security forces personnel asked for help on Saturday. Three of them were injured. According to Uzbek information, other Afghan soldiers were temporarily located on a bridge between the two countries. They have now returned.
According to its own statements, the foreign ministry of the ex-Soviet republic is in talks with the neighboring country about the return of Afghans to their homeland. In addition, the border, which is more than 130 kilometers long, has been reinforced. On Sunday, the situation initially eased.
In recent weeks, hundreds of Afghan security forces had fled to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in fear of the Taliban. Russia fears the conflict could spread to neighboring ex-Soviet republics.