Taliban capture key Afghanistan-Iran border crossing

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An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier searches a man at a checkpoint in the Guzara district of Herat province, Afghanistan July 9, 2021. REUTERS/Jalil Ahmad

Afghan soldiers search a man at a checkpoint in Herat province. The army has lost ground to the Taliban.

The Taliban have captured a major border crossing between Afghanistan and Iran, according to Afghan officials.

Video footage appeared to show Taliban forces taking down the Afghan flag from the roof of the border customs office.

The Islam Qala crossing is one of the biggest trade gateways into Iran, generating an estimated $20m monthly revenue for the government.

The Taliban are rapidly retaking land across Afghanistan as the US-led mission removes the last of its troops.

The Americans earlier this week quietly abandoned Bagram airfield, a sprawling base that was the centre of US operations in Afghanistan and once held tens of thousands of troops.

The Taliban are thought to now control more than a third of the country’s 400 districts, including an arc of territory from the Iranian border in the west to the frontier with China on the other side of the country.

The Afghan government on Friday acknowledged the loss of the Islam Qala border crossing, in Herat province.

“All Afghan security forces including the border units are present in the area, and efforts are under way to recapture the site,” interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told the AFP news agency.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the crossing was “under our full control”.

Reports said Taliban fighters had seized five districts in Herat without a fight. Earlier this week, more than 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces fled to Tajikistan as the Taliban advanced around them.

Russia on Friday said the Taliban had taken control of about two-thirds of the Afghan-Tajik border in a swift advance. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow was urging all sides in Afghanistan to “show restraint”.

News of the capture of the border crossing came hours after US President Joe Biden defended his administration’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.

“I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” Mr Biden said.

He admitted it was “highly unlikely” the Afghan government would be able to control the entire country.

According to an assessment distributed to officials last month and reported by US media, some US intelligence analysts fear the Taliban could seize control of the country within six months.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has insisted that Afghan security forces are capable of keeping the Taliban at bay, and Afghan forces appear to have retaken lost ground in some areas.

According to officials, troops on Wednesday recaptured government buildings in the western city of Qala-e-Naw – the first major provincial capital entered by the Taliban in their latest offensive.

US operations in Afghanistan will officially end on 31 August, but the vast majority of foreign troops have already left.

Peace talks between the government and the Taliban continue, but the talks have regularly stalled and failed to progress significantly.

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