Herat and Kandahar, Two Major Afghan Cities, Fall to Taliban

12 provincial capitals have fallen in week-long push

Starting over the weekend, Afghanistan has started losing provincial capitals to the Taliban at an alarming rate. Thursday may stand as the day things really started falling apart, with some of Afghanistan’s biggest cities falling.

Over the course of Thursday, Afghanistan’s major northeast city, Herat, fell to a Taliban offensive. Within hours, the historic capital city of Kandahar fell as well. Those are two of the three largest cities in Afghanistan.

Herat faced some incursions over the past several days, but the Afghan Defense Ministry had claimed to have the situation in hand. They chased the Taliban out of the city’s south and fought in nearby villages. Eventually though, Taliban reinforcements overran the city.

That would be a huge loss on its own, but then Kandahar went down too. The ideological home of the Taliban and a massive city. Throughout the war the Taliban was never really expelled entirely from Kandahar, but when they started coming in force this week, it really didn’t take long for them to take everything.

On Wednesday, the Afghan government seemed to anticipate the falling of Kandahar, evacuating many high-value detainees out of Kandahar. By evening, the Taliban overran the prison and freed many others.

Gloomy assessments have been growing on the fate of Kabul, the capital and largest city, all week. A few days ago the US assessment was that it might fall within 90 days. This became 30-90 days, and by Thursday, the US was rushing troops in to help evacuate the US embassy. Even that window is looking like a best-case scenario, as US negotiators try to convince the Taliban not to attack the embassy when they get there.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.