Building on their military gains since the official start of the withdrawal of international troops, Taliban insurgents captured two more districts in Afghanistan on Tuesday, according to officials.
After at least three days of heavy fighting in the Jaghato district of south-eastern Ghazni province, the embattled security forces abandoned the district centre, local council members Hamidullah Nawruz and Nasir Ahmad Faqiri said on Tuesday.
The district has strategic value as it is seen as a gateway to central parts of the country, the officials said, adding that the Taliban can now more easily attack neighbouring districts.
According to the local councillors, there was ongoing fighting in Moqor and Ab Band, two other districts of Ghazni province, with fears they might collapse in the very near future, too.
In the meantime, the government forces also abandoned the Dawlat Abad district centre in northern Faryab province before dawn on Tuesday and fled to neighbouring Andkhoi district without engaging the militants, according to three local councillors.
The fate of more than a dozen members of the security forces in the district remained unclear because the telecommunications system was down, provincial councillor Abdul Ahad Alibek said.
Dawlat Abad had been under siege for three years. Forces could only receive logistical support by air; Ground support was impossible because the militants controlled all routes leading to the district, Alibek added.
It is the third straight day of the insurgents overrunning districts.
On Monday, government forces also abandoned Qaysar district in Faryab after days of heavy fighting. In addition, the insurgents took control of Shahrak district in the western Ghor province.
The militants have made a string of gains in the country.
Since the beginning of the official withdrawal of the United States and other NATO troops in Afghanistan on May 1, at least 10 districts have fallen to the Taliban.
A top US military General Kenneth McKenzie said in a statement on Monday that about 50 per cent of the withdrawal of US troops was completed.
Afghanistan has 34 provinces and around 400 districts. District centres serve as secondary-level administrative units, one level below the provinces.
According to a UN report, in the past year the Taliban were able to capture five districts, four of which were recaptured by the government within several days.
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