The Taliban onslaught in Afghanistan continues as the armed group claimed on Friday to have captured Kandahar, which is 500 kilometers away from Kabul. The terrorist group has taken control of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, hours after taking over strategic Afghan city of Ghazni.
"Kandahar is completely conquered. The Mujahideen reached Martyrs' Square in the city," a Taliban spokesman tweeted on an officially recognized account.
The claim was backed up by a resident, who told AFP government forces appeared to have withdrawn en masse to a military facility outside the southern city.
US Military's Second Biggest Base
Reuters news agency later reported an unnamed government official saying the city had fallen but government forces remained in control of Kandahar's airport, which was the US military's second biggest base in Afghanistan during their 20 years in the country.
Kandahar Was Once the Taliban's Stronghold
Kandahar has been a frequent target for conquest because of its strategic location in Asia, controlling the main trade route linking the Indian subcontinent with the Middle East and Central Asia. It is strategically important because of its international airport, its agricultural and industrial output.
Kandahar is the Taliban's birthplace and former stronghold - taking control of the city would be a significant prize for the militants, according to BBC.
Taliban Overruns Kandahar Jail, Frees Hundreds if Prisoners as Part of Offensive
Taliban had occupied the city's outskirts for a number of weeks before launching their attack on the center.
Various reports suggest that the Taliban has recently broken into the Kandahar central jail and released hundreds of incarcerated prisoners. Afghan media outlets quoted Taliban spokesperson Qari Yousaf Ahmadi to confirm that the group had managed to "conquer" the Kandahar central jail on Wednesday.
There are reports that 30,000 families have fled their homes in Kandahar in the face of this fierce fighting in Kandahar.
Will the Taliban Take Hold of Kabul Very Soon?
With the withdrawal of US troops, Afghanistan is fighting for its future as Taliban is regaining its control over the country. The Taliban has taken at least 11 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals over the past week. Kandahar would be the 12th.
This rapid pace of advance of Taliban in Afghanistan is a cause for grave concern. Every day, more territory falls into the hands of Taliban. On Monday, a US estimate said Kabul could fall within 90 days.
As the Taliban continues to gain ground in Afghanistan, the Ashraf Ghani government sacked its Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi on Wednesday. The acting Finance Minister has reigned and left the country.
The Afghan government has effectively lost most of north, south and west Afghanistan in the past week, and is left holding the capital and a dwindling number of contested cities also dangerously at risk.