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Taliban captures strategic Afghan city

August 12, 2021

The Taliban have captured the strategic city of Ghazni, a provincial capital on the road to Kabul, leaving the Afghan capital increasingly beleaguered and cut off from the rest of the country.

Ghazni fell to the militant group on Thursday morning local time after “long and intense fighting,” according to Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of Ghazni provincial council.

A Taliban spokesman tweeted Thursday that the city had been seized, including the governor’s office, police headquarters and prison. CNN cannot independently verify the Taliban’s claims.

Afghan security forces arrested Dawood Laghmani, the governor of Ghazni province, hours after the Taliban took the city, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry told journalists.

Laghmani was detained, along with his deputy and chief of staff, in Maidan Wardak, the province that lies between Kabul and Ghazni, the spokesman added.

The governor had surrendered to the Taliban, Faqiri, the provincial council head, confirmed to CNN.

Ghazni is the 10th provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in roughly a week. The city lies around 93 miles (150 kilometers) south of Kabul, on a major highway connecting the capital with Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city.

Kandahar, which lies in the south of the country, has been besieged by the Taliban for weeks, and the group’s spokesperson claimed on Wednesday that they had taken control of its prison. The Taliban claimed they had freed 1,000 inmates and distributed a video apparently showing them walking outside the jail.

Gul Ahmad Kamin, a Kandahari member of parliament, also confirmed that a wedding hall in Kandahar which was the frontline position for Afghan forces is now under the Taliban control. The wedding hall, visited by CNN just days ago, is about 600 meters away from the prison.

With the capture of Ghazni, the Taliban is now in control of key locations both to the north and south of Kabul. Their earlier capture of areas of the Baghlan province, which lies to the north of Kabul, raised alarms among US officials because the location is considered essential for the defense of the capital, according to a Biden administration official.

A senior administration official familiar with one US intelligence assessment said Kabul could be isolated by the Taliban in the next 30 to 60 days, increasing the potential that the Afghan capital could fall under the control of the militant group.

Another assessment puts the potential collapse within 90 days, according to another US official. Other officials have warned that there are multiple assessments with differing timelines.

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