Taliban claims to control most of Afghanistan after rapid gains

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The Taliban said on Friday it has seized control of 85 percent of territory in Afghanistan, a declaration government officials dismissed as part of a propaganda campaign.

But local Afghan officials said Taliban fighters, emboldened by NATO’s withdrawal, captured an important district in Herat province, home to tens of thousands of minority Shia Hazaras.Torghundi, a northern town on the border with Turkmenistan, was also captured by the Taliban overnight, Afghan and Taliban officials said.

The recent rapid gains come as foreign forces – including the United States – withdraw after nearly 20 years of fighting.

Afghanistan’s interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said efforts were under way to dislodge the Taliban from their newly acquired positions.

The Afghan government has repeatedly dismissed the Taliban’s gains as having little strategic value, but the seizure of multiple border crossings along with mineral-rich areas will likely fill the armed group’s coffers with new sources of revenue.With the Taliban having routed much of northern Afghanistan in recent weeks, the government holds little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that must largely be reinforced and resupplied by air.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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