Taliban Capture First Provincial Capital Since US Began Withdrawal

The Taliban took the capital of the Nimruz province

On Friday, the Taliban captured the city of Zaranj, the capital of Afghanistan’s southwestern Nimruz province, which borders Iran. It marks the first time the Taliban took a provincial capital since the US began its withdrawal at the beginning of May.

The Taliban attacked the city on Thursday night, and hundreds of residents reportedly fled towards the border with Iran. “All of the city is taken by the Taliban,” a Nimruz provincial council member told Stars and Stripes.

The Taliban had previously said they were avoiding taking provincial capitals and other cities so they would not violate the US-Taliban peace deal signed in Doha last year. The Taliban’s offensive initially focused on rural areas where they’ve been making significant territorial gains.

Three Taliban commanders told Reuters that the group had started attacking cities in response to the recent uptick in US airstrikes. “Mullah Yaqoob argued that when US didn’t fulfill their commitment why should Taliban be made to follow the accord?” one commander said, referring to the Taliban’s military commander.

The Taliban are moving in on other provincial capitals. Fighting has been raging in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the Helmand province, which borders Nimruz to the east. The Afghan government launched a counteroffensive in Lashkar Gah after the Taliban captured nine of the city’s 10 districts.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.