On Saturday, the Taliban captured Mazar-i-Sharif, a major city in northern Afghanistan. According to reports, Afghan forces fled without firing a shot.

The sitting Afghan government and the Afghan National Army (ANA) are appearing close to collapse as Taliban forces are edging ever closer to Kabul.

Meanwhile, Western countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, and the Czech Republic are sending troops back into the country to evacuate their citizens and diplomats from the capital.

Mazar-i-Sharif is Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city and was heavily defended. Afzal Hadid, the head of the Balkh provincial council, said that “all security forces have left Mazar city.” 

Two warlords had pledged to defend the city along with the army. Nevertheless, Hadid added that the city appears to have fallen without a fight, and after only small clashes in the surrounding areas. He told Al Jazeera that the soldiers abandoned their equipment and ran for the border. 

Reuters posted a video showing Afghans filling the roads of Mazar-i-Sharif as they are attempting to flee the city. In the distance, men are raising what appears to be the white flag of the Taliban. The dominos of Afghanistan are quickly falling one after another.

Afghan Special Operator
An Afghan special operator stands watch as Afghan Special Security Forces raid Taliban compounds in Baraki Barak district, Logar province, October 11, 2018. (Photo by Spc. Casey Dinnison/NATO)

Earlier, facing little resistance, the Taliban took Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province, according to an anonymous local provincial council member. Pul-e-Alam is only 40 miles south of Kabul and is considered the gateway to Afghanistan’s capital. 

The Taliban also claim that they are close to capturing Maidan Shahr, another town close to Kabul. 

Thousands of displaced people are streaming toward Kabul to escape the onslaught of the Taliban forces.

Taliban Demand Ghani’s Resignation for Peace Talks to Continue 

Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Qatar have stalled. The Taliban have demanded that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani step down before any ceasefire talks can continue.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, met the head of the Taliban’s political operations, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to ask for the fighting to stop.

“The foreign minister urged the Taliban at the meeting to let up the escalation of violence and agree to a ceasefire,” the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani gives a speech
With the country rapidly falling under Taliban control, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is losing his grasp on the situation. (File photo)

“As your president, my focus is on preventing further instability, violence, and displacement of my people,” Ghani said in a short television address.

President Ghani hasn’t answered the Taliban’s call for his resignation. He has been meeting with local and international leaders as he tries to hold on to the capital.

The Taliban now control the western, northern, and southern areas of the country. After the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, the government only holds the center. 

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