Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan seized Kandahar and Herat, the country’s second and third largest cities on Friday, hours after Fox News confirmed that the U.S. military would help evacuate Americans from the embassy in Kabul.
Insurgents have taken more than a dozen provincial capitals in recent days and now control more than two-thirds of the country just weeks before the United States plans to withdraw its remaining troops.
The New York Times reported that only three major cities in the country are still under government control and that Taliban fighters are “well placed to attack Kabul.” The newspaper also pointed out that the capture of Kandahar is a symbolic victory for the Taliban as that is where the insurgency began in the 1990s.
Thousands of Afghans have fled their homes fearing the Taliban will again impose a brutal and repressive government, virtually eliminating women’s rights and carrying out public executions.
The American evacuation plans were presented to President Biden earlier Thursday for his approval, an official added. The military will evacuate “thousands” of US citizens and Afghan interpreters from Kabul.
“Things are moving,” said an official.
The advance of the Taliban has caught the attention of the United Kingdom.
Ben Wallace, Britain’s Defense Minister, said in an interview on Friday that his forces could return to Afghanistan if there was a resurgence of Al Qaeda and the country became a hotbed of terrorism that threatens the West, according to a report.
“I’ll leave all options open. If the Taliban got a message from the last time, you start harboring Al Qaeda, you start attacking the West, or countries like that, we could come back.”
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The Taliban have captured three other provincial capitals in southern Afghanistan, including Helmand, the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the past two decades, as the insurgents launch a lightning offensive that gradually surrounds the capital.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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