Taliban Captures First Provincial Capital as it Moves to Control Afghanistan’s Major Cities

Taliban insurgents have for the first time captured a capital city of one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces - the city of Zaranj of the southwestern Nimroz province. Paramilitary units entered the city in the afternoon of August 6th, which was confirmed by Nimroz's police spokesmen with the fall blamed by officials on a lack of reinforcements from Afghanistan's central government. 

This comes as the Taliban advanced rapidly on multiple fronts, with the insurgent group estimated to control over 80 percent of the country including border crossings with Tajikistan and Pakistan. 

Gains have been made as U.S. and other Western forces have continued a rapid withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, while morale among local government forces has remained very low with units deserting en masse. 

Taliban forces entering Zaranj were shown riding atop a column of captured government armored vehicles, with others seen entering the city on foot. One of their first acts was reportedly to break into a local prison and free inmates. 

The city of approximately 160,000 people changed hands with almost no fighting, with unverified reports indicating that local security forces fled or defected to the Taliban. Multiple provincial capitals have come under Taliban pressure including major cities as Kandahar in the south and Herat in the west. 

The capture of Zaranj represents a significant escalation of the Taliban’s campaign as it moves from capturing sparsely-populated rural areas to taking major population centers.

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