Afghanistan has replaced its army chief, as Taliban militants continue to make rapid advances. They have conquered two-thirds of the country’s territories, which includes nine provincial capitals. Insurgents have taken control of 10 of the country’s 34 provincial capitals.
On Thursday the Taliban said they had taken the strategically important Ghazni city, which is on the road to the national capital Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani earlier flew to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif – traditionally an anti-Taliban bastion – to try to rally pro-government forces. The removal of the country’s army chief, General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, was confirmed to the BBC on Wednesday. He had only been in the post since June. Since then, much of Afghanistan’s regular military surrendered to the Taliban or melted away, allowing the insurgents to seize nine of the country’s 34 provincial capitals and most of the countryside. The head of the Afghan National Army’s special-operations command, Maj. Gen. Haibatullah Alizai, took command as the new overall army chief. He has to deal with escalating violence across the country, as the Taliban continue their offensive.
US and other foreign troops have all but withdrawn following 20 years of military operations. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan in the past month, according to the UN. Mazar-e-Sharif, with a population of half a million, is the only remaining part of northern Afghanistan still under Government control.