Residents of northern Afghanistan hid in their homes as Taliban fighters were strengthening their march towards the region’s biggest city Mazar-e-Sharif, news agency Reuters reported on Tuesday. The Islamic extremist group captured Aibak, capital of Samangan province, on Monday after meeting with minimal resistance. With this, as many as six provincial capitals have been captured by the group, government officials and Taliban fighters themselves have confirmed.
In the wake of the US taking back their troops from the country after two decades, President Ashraf Ghani called on regional strongmen to support his government.
Taliban fighters were tightening their capture in Aibak on the main road between Mazar-e-Sharif and the national capital, Kabul, by moving into government buildings, Reuters reported citing residents.
The civilians further said that a majority of the government security force members appeared to have withdrawn before the rapidly marching Taliban.
Talking about living conditions in Aibak, Sher Mohamed Abbas, a provincial tax officer, said that the only way is “self-imposed house arrest or to find a way to leave for Kabul.”
The father of four children, however, told Reuters that Kabul is also “not safe anymore.”
Abbas further stated that Taliban fighters had come to his office, and told workers to go home. However, both he and other residents said that they hadn’t seen nor heard fighting on Tuesday.
Security forces in Pul-e-Khumri, to the southeast of Aibak, were engulfed when Taliban fighters closed in on the town from the primary junction on the road to Kabul, an official said.
Meanwhile, Gulam Bahauddin Jailani, head of the national disaster authority, said that fighting between Taliban fighters and Afghan army was underway in 24 of the 34 provinces, and 60,000 families had been displaced over the last two months – with a majority of them seeking refuge in Kabul.
Meanwhile, India on Tuesday commenced an evacuation process for its diplomats and nationals from Mazar-e-Sharif. “A special flight is leaving from Mazar-e-Sharif to New Delhi. Any Indian nationals in and around Mazar-e-Sharif are requested to leave for India in the special flight scheduled to depart late today evening,” the consulate wrote in a Twitter post.