Taliban push closer to front lines of two major Afghanistan cities
The Taliban has started to make inroads in two of Afghanistan’s major cities after they launched attacks at several airports on Saturday.
Airports in the the second and fourth largest cities in the country, Kandahar and Herat, were struck by rockets launched by the insurgent group on Saturday, The Washington Post reported.
The newspaper reported it is the first time that the Taliban has advanced in those two cities in almost 20 years.
A Taliban spokesperson told Reuters on Saturday that at least three rockets struck an airport in Kandahar overnight.
“Kandahar airport was targeted by us because the enemy were using it as a centre to conduct air strikes against us,” Zabiullah Mujahid told Reuters in an interview.
Flights at airports in both cities had to be suspended, and the airport in Kandahar suffered a partially damaged roadway, Reuters noted. The Post reported that flights in Herat ultimately resumed later.
As the Taliban continues to make progress covering more ground in the country, this development is particularly worrisome for officials who are bracing for more attacks and thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their homes.
The Post noted that while the Taliban had kept the scope of their attack to smaller cities or rural parts of the country, the recent inroads being made in larger cities now pose a threat to many more Afghans.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked by a reporter if the situation in Afghanistan was headed in the wrong direction during a joint press conference with the Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in India.
Blinken said that the U.S. was seeing the Taliban make inroads in district centers and acknowledged there was a “troubling” situation in Afghanistan.
“Yes, certainly what we’re seeing on the ground in the last week is the Taliban making advances on district centers, challenging some provincial capitals. We’ve also seen these reports of atrocities committed by the Taliban in areas that it’s taken over that are deeply, deeply troubling, and certainly do not speak well to the Taliban’s intentions for the country as a whole,” Blinken said on Wednesday.
Blinken said that the U.S. was “very much engaged in Afghanistan” and mentioned the U.S.’s efforts to bring both sides together to negotiate the conflict.
Though the two sides have met several times for negotiations over peace talks, Reuters reported that the Taliban has show less interest in serious peace talks as it continues to gain more ground in Afghanistan, largely stalling the discussions altogether.