Taliban change strategy, target provincial Afghan cities in response to US strikes

The Taliban is stepping up its attack on provincial cities in response to the increasing airstrikes by the US as fighting has escalated in Herat, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar, according to a report on Friday. Reuters spoke to three Taliban commanders, one of whom said that they will soon capture other cities.

The Taliban have stepped up their campaign to defeat the US-backed government as foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of conflict. A regional US commander said late last month the United States had increased airstrikes to counter growing Taliban attacks, a move condemned by the Islamist group. Fighting has been particularly heavy inside the city of Herat, near the western border with Iran, Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province in the southwest, and Kandahar in the south. Experts have said the loss of Kandahar and Herat, Afghanistan’s second- and third-largest cities by population, would be a major blow to the government. According to them, it could potentially trigger major realignments in favour of the Taliban. However, Taliban negotiator Suhail Shaheen told that the group was continuing its policy of seizing control of rural areas in and implementing Islamic Sharia there, rather than focusing on cities.