A day after the Afghanistan government offered the Taliban a power-sharing deal in return for a halt in violence in the country, the Taliban on Friday, 13 August, claimed to have captured Afghanistan's second-largest city – Kandahar – closing in on the capital city of Kabul.
A Taliban spokesman was quoted as saying, "Kandahar is completely conquered. The Mujahideen reached Martyrs' Square in the city," as government forces have withdrawn en masse to a military facility outside the city, as per a resident, news agency AFP reported.
The development came hours after the news of the country’s third-biggest city of Herat, being abandoned by Afghan forces on Thursday, 12 August, came to the fore.
Advancing at a rapid pace, the Taliban also captured the key southern city of Lashkar Gah on Friday, a senior Afghan security source confirmed, AFP reported.
The development comes a day after a United States defence official, citing US intelligence, said that the Taliban could possibly take over Afghanistan's capital Kabul in 90 days, after isolating it within the next 30 days, Reuters reported.
Since last Friday, the Taliban has captured 12 provincial capitals, effectively taking over most of north, south, and west Afghanistan. The first one to fall was Zaranj (on 6 August) followed by Sheberghan, Sar-e-Pul, Kunduz, Taloqan, Aibak, Pul-e-Khumri, Faizabad and Ghazni (on 12 August).
Meanwhile, the Taliban have set their sight on the biggest city in the north, the traditional anti-Taliban bastion of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Herat, an ancient silk road city near the Iranian border, was given up for control after being under siege for weeks, as government forces pulled out.
A senior security source said, "We had to leave the city in order to prevent further destruction," AFP reported.
However, a Taliban spokesman, reportedly tweeted that "soldiers laid down their arms and joined the Mujahideen".
On Thursday, the interior ministry confirmed the fall of Ghazni, about 150 kilometres (95 miles) from Kabul. Following which, US announced that 3,000 troops will be rushed to the Kabul airport, to help with a partial evacuation of the US Embassy.
Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Kabul on Tuesday, issued a security advisory and asked Indian nationals in Afghanistan to "make immediate travel arrangements to return to India before commercial air services are discontinued to their place of visit/stay."
Moreover, Denmark has agreed to evacuate 45 Afghan citizens who worked for Denmark's government in Afghanistan and have offered them residency in the European country for two years, AP reported.
It has been 20 years since the US' invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban from power in the country, the US is now withdrawing the American troops from the nation and hopes to complete the withdrawal by 31 August.
So far, 4,000 people have died due to the escalating conflict in the country, as well as led to the internal displacement of over 2 lakh citizens, many of whom flee to Kabul in search of safety. Almost one-third of the country is actively involved in the fighting.
(With inputs from AFP and Reuters)