Afghanistan Videos Show Taliban Victories, Government Retreat As Collapse Looms

Videos emerging from Afghanistan show Taliban fighters advancing into and seizing some of the country's largest cities, while the Afghan National Army retreats into ever-shrinking areas of government control.

The Taliban have seized at least 10 provincial capitals in the past week, accelerating a nationwide offensive that began soon after President Joe Biden set August 31 as the deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country.

The militant group—undefeated through a 20-year insurgency against American, NATO and government forces—appears poised to seize control of the country for the first time since 2001.

Videos show Taliban forces entering the major cities of Herat in the west, Kandahar in the south and Ghazni in the southeast. Many more towns and cities have been seized by the militants in recent weeks.

Videos filmed in Ghazni showed Taliban fighters escorting the provincial governor through the streets. The governor surrendered the city to the Taliban and has since been arrested by the authorities in Kabul.

Other videos showed Taliban fighters storming police stations and government buildings in Ghazni, Herat and Kandahar, celebrating in the streets and setting up checkpoints as civilians looked on.

Taliban claims on social media complete takeover of #Kandahar, but this is not confirmed. What is clear is intense fighting & Taliban having reached the heart of the city. Taliban vids show this as well, with shots of fighters allegedly reaching a central roundabout.

— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) August 12, 2021

Video: Afghan Taliban fighters at the Citadel of Herat as they reportedly seize control of the western Afghan city.

— Evan Kohlmann (@IntelTweet) August 12, 2021

Footage has also emerged showing convoys of Afghan National Army troops in U.S.-made vehicles, seemingly retreating from Herat and Kandahar.

It is difficult to verify the videos, but observers have compared the ANA's flight from major cities with the defeat of Iraqi forces by Isis in 2014 and the fall of Saigon—now Ho Chi Minh City— to North Vietnamese troops in 1975.

The Taliban now control some 60 percent of all Afghan districts, according to a map published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Long War Journal. This is up from about 20 percent in April, shortly after Biden announced that all American troops would have left the country by September 11.

The government in Kabul is reportedly in disarray. President Ashraf Ghani's peace negotiators are believed to have offered the Taliban a power-sharing deal during talks in Doha, but this has not stopped their advance.

The State Department, meanwhile, has denied reports that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin asked Ghani to resign.

The outlook is grim for Kabul. The Washington Post reported this week that the White House is considering the possibility of the Afghan capital falling within 90 days of the full U.S. withdrawal on August 31.

Taliban forces now control more than half of the country, including some of the nation's largest cities and key border crossings. The Statista infographic below shows the scale of the group's recent offensive.

Map Shows Taliban Advancement in Afghanistan
This graphic shows the advancement of the Taliban of Afghanistan with data from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Long War Journal. Statista

Three thousand fresh American troops are being rushed to Afghanistan to support the partial evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Kabul. State Department spokesman Ned Price said of the operation: "This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not a wholesale withdrawal."

This article has been updated to include an infographic.

ANA troops in Herat amid Taliban advance
Afghan National Army troops stand guard on a roadside in Herat on August 12, as the Taliban advances. -/AFP via Getty Images

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