Kabul (AP) – With Tirinkot in Urusgan province and Kalat in Sabul province, the militant Islamist Taliban have taken two more provincial capitals in the south of the country. This was confirmed on Friday by local officials of the German news agency.

Accordingly, both cities were peacefully handed over to the Islamists. This means that within a week, the Taliban captured 18 of the 34 provincial capitals.

In Tirinkot, with an estimated 116,000 inhabitants, all security forces surrendered to the Taliban, a parliamentarian said. At least they had nowhere to go because all the streets outside the city were blocked by the Islamists.

The capital of the neighboring province of Sabul, Kalat, with an estimated 44,000 inhabitants, was also handed over to the Islamists without a fight. Security forces had repeatedly fought the Taliban in the city’s outer ring in recent weeks.

Afghanistan’s second largest city conquered

On Friday night (local time), the second-largest city of Kandahar in the south of the country fell to the Taliban, and on Friday morning the important city of Laschkargah in the neighboring province of Helmand in Kandahar fell.

Firus Koh in Ghor province in the west of the country has been taken over by Islamists, a provincial council and a parliamentarian from the German news agency confirmed on Friday. The 15th provincial capital fell to the Taliban within a week.

The city of an estimated 130,000 inhabitants was taken by the Islamists without any resistance, the provincial government of Fasel-ul Hak Ehsan said. Security forces and several government officials had withdrawn to a military base in the city.

MEP Fatima Kohistani, who represents the province in parliament, criticized the governor of Ghor. He wanted to flee, but when he couldn’t, he practically surrendered the city to the Islamists. The security forces and officials at the military base are now said to be waiting for the Taliban to give them cars to leave the city. Virtually no people have fled, the parliamentarian said. Many would have the same attitude as the Taliban.

With Firos Koh, the Taliban captured 15 of the 34 provincial capitals within a week. On Friday evening (local time), the second largest city of Kandahar in the south of the country fell to them, on Friday morning the important city of Laschkargah in neighboring Helmand province.

Three major cities still in government hands

The insurgents are getting closer and closer to a full military takeover in the country. Three major cities, including the capital Kabul, are still under government control. There have been reports of attacks on other smaller provincial capitals in the country.

Laschkargah in Helmand province has been hotly contested for weeks. Because of the violent attacks, many Afghans assumed that this would be the first major city to fall into the hands of the Islamists. At the end of July, when the government owned only two of the ten police districts in the city of an estimated 200,000 inhabitants, special forces were again sent from Kabul. With the support of many air strikes by the Afghan and US forces, they initially managed to stabilize the situation, although a hospital and a university were also hit.

Security forces left the city

However, after continued heavy attacks and the use of car bombs on the police headquarters, which was still under government control, the situation turned in favor of the Taliban on Friday evening. Provincial Councilor Abdul Majid Achundsada said Friday morning (local time) that the Taliban had taken over the entire city. The commander of the 205th Army Corps, Sami Sadat, was flown away along with the governor. The rest of the remaining security forces would have left the city by land.

On Friday morning, MPs confirmed the Taliban’s capture of the country’s second largest city, Kandahar, their most significant conquest to date. With more than 650,000 inhabitants, Kandahar is the capital of the province of the same name and the economic center of the south. Kandahar was the birthplace of the Taliban movement in the 1990s. The city also served as the capital of the Islamists during their rule between 1996 and 2001.

There had been serious clashes between the government and the Taliban in Kandahar for more than three weeks before security forces evacuated the city, said MP Gul Ahmad Kamin, who represents the province in parliament. The government forces eventually left the main authorities and took refuge in the province’s 205th Army Corps.

On Thursday alone, the Islamists were able to take three cities – including the third-largest city of Herat and the strategically important city of Gasni, which is just 150 kilometers from Kabul. Representatives of the Afghan government have not yet responded to the tumultuous events.

US troops deployed

Several states are now preparing to evacuate their embassy staff and other citizens. US forces immediately move some 3,000 additional soldiers to the airport in Kabul. This is intended to support an orderly reduction in US embassy staff, a US Defense Department spokesman said. In addition, the US is moving up to 4,000 additional soldiers to Kuwait and 1,000 to Qatar – in case reinforcements are needed.

The withdrawal of US soldiers from Afghanistan should be completed by August 31, the spokesman said Thursday (local time). Britain also plans to send an additional 600 troops to secure the British return from Afghanistan. Most recently, US President Joe Biden said at the White House on Thursday that Afghans must now “fight for their own state.”