Taliban insurgents captured an Afghan provincial capital and killed the government’s senior media officer in Kabul on Friday amid a deteriorating security situation as U.S. and other foreign troops withdraw.
A police spokesman in southern Nimroz province said the capital Zaranj had fallen to the hardline Islamists because of a lack of reinforcements from the Western-backed government.
A Taliban spokesman said on Twitter that the insurgents had “completely liberated” the province and had taken control of the governor’s house, police headquarters and other official buildings.
Later, a top Afghan general leading the counter-offensive in the south of the country said Afghan air force airstrikes had killed the Taliban’s top official for Nimroz along with 14 of his men.
Fighting to reimpose a strict Islamic regime 20 years after they were ousted from power by U.S.-led forces, the Taliban have intensified their campaign to defeat the government.
The insurgents have taken dozens of districts and border crossings in recent months and put pressure on several provincial capitals, including Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south, as foreign forces pull out.
In New York, U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons questioned the Taliban’s commitment to a political settlement, telling the U.N. Security Council the war had entered a deadlier and more destructive phase “reminiscent of Syria, recently, or Sarajevo, in the not-so-distant past”.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the prospect of Afghanistan slipping into full-scale and protracted civil war “is a stark reality”.