Updated Aug 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Taliban capture third-largest city in Afghanistan

Afghan provincial capitals captured by the Taliban in August 2021
Data: Al Jazeera and AP; Map: Axios Visuals

The Taliban captured the cities of Ghazni and Herat on Thursday, the 10th and 11th provincial capitals to fall to the militant group in recent days, AP reports.

Why it matters: Herat is the third-largest city in Afghanistan. Ghazni is the closest provincial capital to Kabul to fall to the Taliban — putting their frontlines within 100 miles of the heart of Afgahn government. Capturing Ghazni also cuts off a key highway linking it with Afghanistan's southern provinces.

  • A newly released U.S. military assessment suggests that Kabul could come under pressure within 30 days and that the Taliban could gain control of the country within months, per AP.
  • Kabul is not directly under attack, but "the loss of Ghazni tightens the grip of a resurgent Taliban estimated to now hold some two-thirds of the nation," AP writes.

The big picture: The string of swift Taliban successes in the final weeks of the U.S. withdrawal has dented hopes that the Afghan military and allied groups will be able to hold off the insurgency, Axios' Dave Lawler reports.

  • Afghan officials have been seeking air support from the U.S. following its withdrawal, but the Pentagon has not said whether it could conduct such operations.

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