The Taliban on Wednesday launched their first assault on a provincial capital in Afghanistan, since waging a major offensive against government forces, local officials said.
Fierce fighting has erupted in the western city of Qala-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis, after the militants captured all the surrounding districts of the province.
'The enemy has entered the city, all the districts have fallen. The fighting has started inside the city,' Badghis governor Hessamuddin Shams told reporters in a text message.
Footage posted online appeared to show Taliban fighters entering the city on motorbikes, several holding guns, with residents lining the streets to welcome them.
Other videos allegedly showed Taliban emptying the province's Qala-e-Naw prison.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
It comes after the US withdrew from Afghanistan last week by slipping away in the night without telling the base's new Afghan commander who discovered they had gone the next morning.
The Taliban on Wednesday launched their first assault on Qala-i-Naw, Afghanistan, since waging a major offensive against government force (pictured, smoke rising from the town on Wednesday)
Footage posted online appeared to show Taliban fighters entering the city on motorbikes, several holding guns, with residents lining the streets to welcome them
People in Qala-i-Naw lined the streets and welcomed the Taliban fighters into the city as they launched an offensive against government forces on Wednesday
The Taliban on Wednesday launched their first assault on Qala-i-Naw, a provincial capital in Afghanistan
Pictures appeared to show smoke rising from the town of Qala-i-Naw after Taliban fighters launched an offensive against the provincial capital
Footage posted online allegedly showed Taliban fighters emptying the province's Qala-i-Naw prison
The Taliban appear to be winning the propaganda war with videos to prove they will welcome surrendering soldiers (pictured, Taliban fighters and villagers on March 2, 2020)
Afghan troops were filmed laying down their arms to the Taliban days after the US departure.
The Taliban appear to be winning the propaganda war with videos to prove they will welcome surrendering soldiers - as long as they hand over their state-of-the-art weapons and Humvee armoured cars.
However, General Austin Scott Miller, commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, said he was shocked by how quickly the Afghan National Army had surrendered to the Taliban.
'I don't like leaving friends in need,' he told ABC on Monday. 'We should be concerned. The loss of terrain and the rapidity of that loss of terrain has to be concerning. You look at the security situation, it's not good.
'The Taliban are on the move. War is physical, but it's also got a psychological or moral component, and hope actually matters. What you don't want to have happen is that the people lose hope.'
The Taliban uploaded footage which purports to show Afghan National Army troops laying down their US-made arms and surrendering
Afghan soldiers purportedly surrendering to Taliban warlords in footage uploaded by the terror group
The Taliban are on the move across the country, most notably in the northern province of Badakhshan which borders Tajikistan, sending Afghan troops fleeing over the border. Meanwhile in Kandahar province to the south the jihadists are encircling their former capital city
Badghis provincial council chief Abdul Aziz Bek and council member Zia Gul Habibi confirmed fighting between the Taliban and government forces had erupted inside the city.
'Fighting continues in different parts of the city right now,' Bek said, adding that some security officials had surrendered to the Taliban during the night.
Provincial council member Habibi said the Taliban were inside the police headquarters of the city and the local office of the country's spy agency, the National Directorate of Security.
Stacks of US assault rifles seized by the Taliban from surrendering Afghan troops
The Taliban have seized more than 900 guns from surrendering Afghan soldiers in the hinterland surrounding Kabul as they continue their resurgence in the wake the US and Nato retreat.
The jihadists have been posting videos online showing how they are happy to welcome their former adversaries as long as they lay down their arms.
The propaganda appears to be working.
A Sky News report showed the Taliban proudly displaying US-made guns along with stacks of brand new ammunition and grenades still unopened in their boxes.
The commander, based in Wardak province west of Kabul, told the broadcaster his men had retrieved 70 sniper rifles, 900 guns, 30 Humvees, 20 army pickups and 15 articulated military trucks.
They also had satellite phones, grenades, mortars, bullets, many with labels on the front saying 'Property of USA Government'.
They have captured Sultan Khil military base, a key strategic site in the region formerly held by Afghan troops.
A box of rockets which the Taliban seized from the Afghan National Army
'The provincial council officials have fled to an army camp in the city. Fighting continues in the city,' she said.
An Afghan government delegation met with Taliban representatives in Tehran on Wednesday, the Iranian foreign ministry said, as the Islamist militia has swept through northern areas following the pullout of US troops.
Opening the Tehran talks, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the US departure from its eastern neighbour.
But warned: 'Today the people and political leaders of Afghanistan must make difficult decisions for the future of their country.'
In the capital of Badakhshan, Faizabad, video emerged which purported to show Afghan officials attempting to flee on a commercial jet as the Taliban surrounded the town of around 30,000 people.
Some civilians are trying to escape by road but many have accepted the return of the Taliban as a fact of life.
'The Taliban have cut off all gates out of the city, and there are checkpoints on all the roads, searching for government officials. Those who can have abandoned the city, by air of course,' one local resident called Abdul told The Times.
'Most districts in Badakhshan are falling without any fighting. Many believe that officials have done a secret deal with the Taliban. People are afraid of what comes next.'
Ahmad Zaman, another Faizabad resident, told the paper: 'The situation is really bad. Everyone is in fear and panic. The Taliban are gaining control without fighting. The insurgents are sending messages to Afghan forces to surrender without fighting.'
President Ashraf Ghani has promised a counter-attack and sources said that commandos had been deployed to defend the town.
The assaults across the country, from Helmand in the south to Badakhshan in the north, come just days after the bulk of US and British troops left Afghanistan.
The US left Bagram Airfield last week - its fortress in the country for nearly 20 years - by slipping away in the night without telling the base's new Afghan commander who discovered they had gone the next morning.
'We (heard) some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram ... and finally by seven o'clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,' Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram's new commander said.
Before the Afghan army could take control of the airfield about an hour's drive from the Afghan capital Kabul, it was invaded by a small army of looters, who ransacked barrack after barrack and rummaged through giant storage tents before being evicted, according to Afghan military officials.
'At first we thought maybe they were Taliban,' said Abdul Raouf, a soldier of 10 years. He said the the US called from the Kabul airport and said 'we are here at the airport in Kabul.'
Kohistani insisted the Afghan National Security and Defense Force could hold on to the heavily fortified base despite a string of Taliban wins on the battlefield. The airfield also includes a prison with about 5,000 prisoners, many of them allegedly Taliban.
Afghan soldiers who wandered Monday throughout the base that had once seen as many as 100,000 US troops were deeply critical of how the US left Bagram, leaving in the night without telling the Afghan soldiers tasked with patrolling the perimeter.
'In one night, they lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area,' said Afghan soldier Naematullah, who asked that only his one name be used.
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