Kabul (dpa) – The Taliban are closing in on the Afghan capital, Kabul. The provincial capital of Gasni in the southeast of the country, just 150 kilometers away, fell to them on Thursday. This was confirmed by three provincial councilors from the German news agency.

The militant Islamists brought under their control the tenth of 34 provincial capitals in less than a week. They also spread panic in the major cities of Herat and Kandahar.

“The Taliban are all over the city,” Gasni provincial council chief Nasir Ahmad Fakiri said on the phone, exhausted and disappointed. Shortly before midnight, the Islamists had launched their most recent attack attempt on Gasni. Shortly after sunrise, they had captured two police districts. And before ten o’clock the city was supposed to have fallen before them. The governor and police chief were in two armored cars heading towards Kabul – the security forces accompanying them were disarmed.

Near Kabul

Gasni has about 180,000 inhabitants and is located on the important ring road that connects the largest cities in the country. Due to its proximity to Kabul, the Taliban had attempted to take it several times. They had two police zones in the city since mid-July. In the summer of 2018, more than 1,000 Taliban fighters killed more than 100 police officers and soldiers and about 20 civilians in a major attack on the city.

Provincial Council Fakiri and his colleague blame the governor. He had made a secret agreement with the Taliban and practically surrendered the city to the Islamists. Even before the governor arrived in Kabul, the handcuffs clicked. The Interior Ministry said he was arrested in Wardak province. Why exactly, no one said.

Ten of the 34 provincial capitals, including the city of Gasni, fell to Islamists in less than a week. Most of it is located in the north of the country. Gasni is the closest of all fallen towns to Kabul.

“The ring around Kabul is getting tighter,” said Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig of the Kabul think tank Afghanistan Analysts Network. The Taliban now have two options: “attack immediately or wait for the government in Kabul to collapse,” Ruttig continues.

More and more fights

After waiting it didn’t seem like Thursday night (local time). Provincial councils reported increasing fighting in the western city of Herat. The Taliban had entered the city from the east and reached the governor’s seat at a height of 200 meters. Ismail Chan’s militias are busy in the west of the city to fend off an attack by the Islamists.

Usually the Taliban invaded the city for brief attacks and then immediately withdrew. “With their sporadic fire attacks, they are horrified by the inhabitants of the city,” said a spokesman for the governor of Herat in a voice message on Whatsapp. They entered the city, took selfies, shared them on social media and pretended the city already belonged to them. “They have their own way of psychological warfare. Ten to fifteen motorcycles are bringing the city to the brink of collapse.”

They captured the prison in the important city of Kandahar. According to local media reports, the government had previously relocated key Taliban prisoners. Here too, they intensified their attacks on Thursday evening (local time).

US embassy deeply concerned about executions

The US embassy wrote on Twitter on Thursday that it had heard of additional executions of soldiers who had surrendered. This is “very disturbing” and could be a war crime. He also condemned the illegal arrest by the Taliban of several members of the Afghan government, including civilian leaders and officers of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

Given the situation, says Afghanistan expert Ruttig, one can only hope that a way out of the negotiations will be found to prevent further casualties and destruction. From the Gulf emirate of Qatar, where an Afghan government delegation is meeting with representatives from the US, China and Pakistan, there were again no details to give hope. Diplomatic circles have now expressed doubts that the Taliban political team still has much to say. Rather, it is the time of the commanders that stands out.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) warned the Taliban against establishing a caliphate in the disputed country. Then there will be “not a cent” of German development aid, which currently amounts to about 430 million euros per year, Maas said on Thursday in the ZDF “Morgenmagazin”. “The Taliban know that too.” He thinks the Islamists will join and dominate the government in Afghanistan. It is then crucial what the future constitution of the country will look like and what rights will be for the people. The Foreign Ministry on Thursday called on German citizens to leave Afghanistan quickly.

Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was deeply concerned about the Taliban advance on Deutschlandfunk. They made “very fast, very big space gains,” the CDU politician said. “That’s why these are very, very bitter images, especially in view of our commitment over the past twenty years.”