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Another provincial capital, Taliqan, falls to the insurgents on Sunday.

Another provincial capital, Taliqan, falls to the insurgents on Sunday.
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Another provincial capital, Taliqan, falls to the insurgents on Sunday.

Another provincial capital, Taliqan, falls to the insurgents on Sunday.

Taliban fighters captured another northern provincial capital on Sunday afternoon, local officials said, marking the third city to fall to the insurgent group in a single day.

Fighters had been confined to the gates of Taliqan, the capital of Takhar province, since June. But as downtown Kunduz fell to the Taliban on Sunday, insurgents moved to Taliqan, a few miles away, pushing back government forces in fierce combat.

By sunset, the Taliban had taken over the police headquarters and the provincial governor’s office, said an Afghan official who requested anonymity to discuss developments.

Keramatullah Rustaqi, a member of Takhar’s provincial council, said the town had fallen to the Taliban and “security forces left Taliqan to fall back on Farkhar,” a neighboring district.

Rustaqi added that government forces were ambushed along the way.

Taliqan, an ethnically diverse city with Uzbek, Tajik, Pashtun, and Hazara residents, is symbolic for many in the north and, like Kunduz, borders Tajikistan. The city was the center of operations for Ahmad Shah Massoud, an anti-Taliban militia commander who was killed just before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“A large number of Taliban have come from Kunduz and Takhar districts to capture the town of Taliqan, and there is fighting in four directions,” said Karimullah Bek, a pro-government militia commander in Taliqan. , a few hours before the fall of the city. “We need reinforcements.

The exhaustion described by members of government militias fighting in Taliqan is common among security forces across Afghanistan after months of trying to restrain the Taliban. In addition to Kunduz, the insurgents captured three other provincial capitals in just three days: Sheberghan, the capital of Jowzjan province; Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province on the Afghan-Iranian border; and Sar-e-Pul, the capital of a northern province of the same name.

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“The situation is chaotic and the front lines are not clear now,” said Mohammed Omar, a district governor from Takhar who leads militia fighters in Taliqan.

As of Sunday afternoon, the Taliban freed hundreds of detainees from Taliqan prison after the security forces fled, said Wafiullah Rahmani, head of Takhar provincial council. Breaking into prisons and prisons has long been a central part of the insurgent group’s military strategy.

Taliqan’s capture by the Taliban is a blow to militia forces which regain importance in an echo of the 1990s, when an ethnically charged civil war tore Afghanistan apart and helped the Taliban rise to power .

Mr. Massoud’s son is now trying to muster a force much like his father did after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan over 40 years ago. But the rise of these militia forces has had mixed effects on the battlefield.

The Taliban’s recent gains have enabled them to consolidate their fighters and step up an offensive on Mazar-i-Sharif, a major economic center near the Uzbek border and the capital of Balkh province.

And once again, the Afghan government was faced with a dilemma: whether to fight to reclaim the cities it lost, or to focus on defending what remains of cities and provinces.

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