Taliban captures Afghanistan’s second-largest city Kandahar

In a crushing blow for the Afghan Government, the Taliban have captured Afghanistan’s second largest city, Kandahar, a major win for the militants. The city was once the Taliban’s stronghold, and is strategically important as a leading trade hub.

“Following heavy clashes late last night the Taliban took control of Kandahar city,” a local government official told Reuters news agency. Kandahar is the latest city to fall, after Herat and Ghazni on Thursday. Government forces were still in control of Kandahar’s airport, which was the U.S. military’s second biggest base in Afghanistan during their 20-year mission. The Taliban now control most of northern Afghanistan and about a third of the country’s regional capitals and have taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals as part of a weeklong blitz. The capture of Kandahar and Herat – the country’s second and third largest cities – would represent the Taliban’s two most significant victories since they began a broad offensive in May as U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew under a deal struck between the militants and the United States last year. The insurgents have moved quickly, seizing new territories as US and other foreign troops withdraw after 20 years of military operations. On Thursday, the Taliban also seized the historic central city of Ghazni, 150 km (90 miles) southwest of Kabul, before over-running Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south, according to the Taliban and media.