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The fall of Sar-i-Pul threatens a commercial hub in Afghanistan’s north.

The fall of Sar-i-Pul threatens a commercial hub in Afghanistan’s north.
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The fall of Sar-i-Pul threatens a commercial hub in Afghanistan’s north.

The fall of Sar-i-Pul threatens a commercial hub in Afghanistan’s north.

KABUL, Afghanistan – Of the three towns seized by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, Sar-i-Pul, the capital of the province of the same name, received less headlines and less community concern international.

Due to its remoteness, the city had been largely neglected by both the Afghan government and international aid agencies that flocked to Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001.

But on Sunday, after more than a month of fighting and airstrikes, the city finally fell into insurgent hands, leaving residents struggling with a new power structure and the prospect of more violence.

From a military point of view, the province is of less strategic importance. But Sar-i-Pul offers access to untapped natural resources, including recently drilled oil fields near the provincial capital and taken over by the Taliban.

By the end of June, the Taliban had captured four districts of Sar-i-Pul as part of their larger offensive in the north. With the province now mostly under their control, the insurgents positioned themselves to attack Mazar-i-Sharif, an economic center and capital of Balkh province, from two different directions: Sar-i-Pul and Jowzjan in the west, and Kunduz to the east.

Sar-i-Pul province itself has a population of around 621,000 and is ethnically diverse, with ethnic Uzbeks constituting a plurality.

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