The Taliban have seized two major Afghan cities, the country’s second and third-largest city after Kabul – Kandahar and Herat and now possibly heading towards Kabul.
Taliban has established control over Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-biggest city, the Associated Press news agency reported, citing regional authorities. The city was reportedly seized on late Thursday, with local officials fleeing to the airport in order to leave the city.
Meanwhile, despite the Taliban onslaught, the US has assured Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Washington is reducing the presence of civilians in Afghanistan but will maintain strong diplomatic and security relations with the war-ravaged nation, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a press release.
“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke today with President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani to stress that the United States remains invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan in the face of violence by the Taliban,” Price said on Thursday.
“The Secretaries both emphasized that the United States remains committed to maintaining a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the Government of Afghanistan.”
Blinken and Austin informed Ghani the United States is reducing its civilian footprint in Kabul in light of the evolving security situation and will accelerate the pace of Special Immigration Visa (SIV) flights for Afghan interpreters, Price said.
Both secretaries discussed with Ghani the current security situation in Afghanistan, efforts to curb the violence, and ongoing diplomatic efforts with the Taliban, Price said.
The US officials emphasized the United States will maintain a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the Afghan government. Blinken added that the United States remained committed to support a political solution to end the conflict.
The Taliban have captured several important provincial capitals in Afghanistan over the last several weeks, including the country’s second-largest city Kandahar earlier on Thursday.
The Defense Department announced that it will send several thousand troops back into Afghanistan to assist with the departure of US embassy staff and accelerate the processing of Special Immigrant Visa applications for Afghans who assisted US forces.