Taliban militants surround major Afghan cities

Kabul: The Taliban militants the US has spent two decades battling are now pushing towards the provincial cities in Afghanistan, bringing their battle with the Afghan security forces ever closer to the regional capitals, CBS News reported.

Afghan commando units were back on patrol Thursday in the capital of Badghis Province in western Afghanistan, just a day after they beat back Taliban militants who tried to storm the city.

Unverified videos posted on social media appeared to show Taliban fighters speeding towards the centre of the Qala-i-Naw city on motorcycles. Amid the chaos, there was a jailbreak at the local prison.

The report said that with heavy gunfire still ringing out, the provincial governor tried to reassure residents: “Keep your composure and I promise you, we will defend the city.”

The battle was the closest the Taliban has come to toppling a provincial capital since 2015, and it was part of an offensive that has seen the insurgency advance across the country at a lightning speed, the report said.

Amid widespread surrenders, desertions and mass retreats by Afghan army soldiers — including more than 1,000 who fled across the border to neighboring Tajikistan — National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib insisted earlier this week that his troops had begun returning to their posts.

“They are being brought back. People are standing. There is war, there is pressure. Sometimes things work in our way, sometimes they don’t,” he told reporters.

Defense officials told CBS News that the Taliban militants are surrounding provincial capitals like Qala-i-Naw for now, waiting it out until US troops are gone for good, and the threat of immediate airstrikes coming to the Afghan forces’ rescue is diminished.

The Afghan troops have been redeployed to defend the cities, setting the stage for a showdown.