The fall of Ghazni, capital of its eponymous province, means that the Taliban now control the most important highway connecting Kabul to the south of the country. It also means they have effectively severed President Ashraf Ghani’s government’s connections to important provinces like Kandahar, Helmand and Farah. Extensive fighting had been on around Ghazni for days.
Ghazni, an ancient city, was the seat of Mahmud of Ghazni, the first of the Turkic mamluk-origin Ghaznavids and the conqueror who is said by some historians to have invaded India 17 times, and to have plundered the Somnath temple in 1025 CE.
Speaking to the media, a Ghazni provincial council member said that the Taliban have taken most of the city, including the governor’s compound, while Afghan forces currently control a police base on the outskirts of the city.
While Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is flying to northern towns, like Mazar-e-Sharif to seek help from the warlords, the Taliban march to besiege the capital is picking up pace by the hour.
The country’s interior ministry, meanwhile, said the Afghan police had arrested Ghazni governor Mohammad Dawood Laghmani and his deputy in Maidan Wardak province, south of Kabul, after they had fled the provincial capital.
In southern Afghanistan, the insurgents, who have besieged Kandahar for weeks, claimed they had taken control of the prison and freed more than 1,000 inmates. While the Afghan government has not confirmed the prison takeover, the militant group has shared a video showing the prisoners walking outside the jail.
In Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in the south, the militants have taken over the regional police headquarters. According to government sources, some police officers surrendered while others retreated to the nearby governor’s office still controlled by Afghan forces. Fighting between the Taliban and government forces has been on for weeks in Lashkar Gah.
While the Taliban are taking over control of the north, the west and the south of the country, and might soon begin marching on Kabul, the national capital, the inability of the Western-trained and equipped Afghan defence forces to retake any lost ground is worrying their backers in the West.
Reminding the Afghan government of American efforts, US President Joe Biden had said on Wednesday: “We spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces. Afghan leaders have to come together. They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”