Hundreds of refugees and security personnel have reportedly fled to neighbouring Iran and Tajikistan as the Taliban continues its rapid expansion across Afghanistan. In a statement, Afghan security officials said that the group had gained control of the important Herat province in western Afghanistan, including Islam Qala, an important border crossing with Iran. This follows on from further advances in other Afghan frontiers including border areas with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Pakistan. Furthermore, pitched battles between Afghan government and Taliban forces were reported near the Uzbek border.
The Taliban also progressed in the south of the country, attacking Kandahar city and neighbouring areas on the outskirts. Kandahar has been a key focus for the group over the past week, perhaps due to the symbolic nature of the city where the Taliban emerged from during the civil war in the 1990s. This advance into Kandahar city came less than 24 hours after Biden reaffirmed the US-NATO commitment to withdrawal, setting August 31 as the final deadline for troop withdrawal, excluding the 650 US personnel left to protect the US embassy in Kabul.
As the 20-year foreign intervention draws to a close, the Taliban have no doubt been emboldened by recent events to continue military advancement.
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