Taliban captures Afghanistan's Mazar-e-Sharif city, approach Kabul
- Mazar-e-Sharif is Afghanistan's fourth largest city
- Mazar-e-Sharif is known for its Muslim shrine made out of blue tiles
- The city was captured three weeks before the US troop withdrawal deadline
With the United States' troop withdrawal from Afghanistan draws closer to a conclusion, the Taliban captured the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The city, which is located in the northern region, is Afghanistan's fourth-largest and is reportedly heavily guarded.
According to reports from news agency Associated Press that cited lawmaker Abas Ebrahimzada from the Balkh province stated that the national army surrendered first, which prompted pro-government militias and other forces to lose morale and give up in the face of a Taliban onslaught launched earlier Saturday.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had flown to Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday to rally the city’s defenses, meeting with several militia commanders, including Dostum and Noor, according to reports from news agency Associated Press.
On Saturday, Ghani made his first major appearance on television since the Islamist organisation started pushing into Afghanistan's major cities. He said that he would not give up the "achievements" that have been secured in the last two decades since the United States entered the country after the 9/11 attacks.
"We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community as well as our international allies", Ghani said in a statement. He further added that the results of the consultations would be shared with the public soon, according to reports from Associated Press.
The city of Mazar-e-Sharif is known for its Muslim shrine made out of blue tiles. The city was also a stronghold of the Northern Alliance, a group of ethnic militias who helped the United States gain dominance over the Taliban two decades ago.
According to flight-tracking data of the United States, the country's Air Force has carried out multiple airstrikes in support of the Afghan allies on the ground, however, the productivity of these strikes is still under question, according to Associated Press.
(With inputs from Associated Press)