Taliban insurgents have made rapid advances across Afghanistan in recent months as the U.S. and other foreign forces withdrew. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also returned to the capital after a flying visit to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to rally his beleaguered forces, with Taliban fighters have now taken more than a quarter of the country’s provincial capitals in less than a week.
Meanwhile, the European Union has also warned the Taliban that it would face being cut off by the international community if it seized power through violence, as the insurgents sweep across Afghanistan. “If power is taken by force and an Islamic Emirate re-established, the Taliban would face non-recognition, isolation, lack of international support and the prospect of continued conflict and protracted instability in Afghanistan," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
Following is a list of provincial capitals that have fallen to, or are being contested by the Islamist militants, who are fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after they were ousted in 2001. Afghanistan has 34 provinces in total.
PROVINCIAL CAPITALS FALLING TO THE TALIBAN
- Aug. 6 - ZARANJ. The Taliban take over the city in Nimroz province in the south, the first provincial capital to fall to the insurgents since they stepped up attacks on Afghan forces in early May.
- Aug. 7 - SHEBERGHAN. The Taliban declare they have captured the entire northern province of Jawzjan, including its capital Sheberghan. Heavy fighting is reported in the city, and government buildings are taken over by the insurgents. Afghan security forces say they are still fighting there.
- Aug. 8 - SAR-E-PUL. The insurgents take control of Sar-e-Pul, capital of the northern province of the same name. It is the first of three provincial centres to fall on the same day.
- Aug. 8 - KUNDUZ. Taliban fighters seize control of the northern city of 270,000 people, regarded as a strategic prize as it lies at the gateway to mineral-rich northern provinces and Central Asia. Government forces say they are resisting the insurgents from an army base and the airport.
- Aug. 8 - TALOQAN. The capital of Takhar province, also in the north, falls to the Taliban in the evening. They free prisoners and force government officials to flee.
- Aug. 9 - AYBAK. The capital of the northern province of Samangan is overrun by Taliban fighters.
- Aug. 10 - PUL-E-KHUMRI. The capital of the central province of Baghlan falls to the Taliban, according to residents.
- Aug. 11 - FAIZABAD. The capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan is under Taliban control, a provincial council member says.
- Aug. 12 - GHAZNI. The insurgents take over the city, capital of the province of the same name, a senior security officer says.
- Aug 12 - FIRUS KOH. The capital of Ghor province, was handed over to the Taliban on Thursday night without a fight, security officials said.
- AUG 13 - QALA-E-NAW. The Taliban have captured the capital of the northwestern province of Badghis, a security official and the Taliban said.
- Aug 13 - KANDAHAR. The Taliban have captured Afghanistan's second biggest city of Kandahar, government officials and the Taliban said.
- Aug 13 - LASHKAR GAH. The Taliban have captured the capital of the southern province of Helmand, police said.
PROVINCIAL CAPITALS BEING CONTESTED
- FARAH. Capital of the western province of Farah.
- HERAT. Capital of Herat province in the west.
- PUL-E-ALAM. Capital of Logar province in the east