Helmand TV station, located in the city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, is operated by the state-run Radio and Television Afghanistan. Local journalists of Lashkar Gah say that nothing is being broadcast on the station at this time.
In a text message to CNN, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the group had taken over the station.
The official said that over the past 72 hours, US airstrikes have targeted Taliban positions around the cities of Herat, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah.
“They attack several times when the Taliban try to enter the city,” the official said, adding that the three cities were considered “in danger” from the Taliban’s progress.
The weekend saw heavy fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces at Lashkar Gah. According to local reporters contacted by CNN, the Taliban now control several districts in the city.
Lashkar Gah sits on strategic routes in all directions, including the highway between Kandahar and Herat and important agricultural areas to the south of the city. The Taliban have long had a strong presence in Helmand province, including the capital, but have not captured any part of the capital since its overthrow in 2001.
According to a tweet by an army unit 215 Corps, the Afghan army on Saturday strengthened its presence in the city by bringing in special forces. It also carried out air strikes on Taliban positions.
If Lashkar Gah falls into the hands of the Taliban, it will be the first of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals that the government has lost. But many others are surrounded by the Taliban, which controls several major highways throughout Afghanistan.
Herat province – in northwestern Afghanistan – is another area that has seen heavy fighting. The Defense Ministry tweeted on Sunday: “Hundreds of special forces arrive in Herat province! These forces will step up offensive operations and suppress the Taliban in Herat. The security situation in the province will improve soon.”
In an apparent acknowledgment of the gravity of the situation in Herat, the Interior Ministry said that Deputy Interior Minister General Abdul Rahman Rahman had arrived there with police special forces.
Videos that surfaced on Saturday indicate the Taliban now control a road connecting the capital – also known as Herat – with its airport. A local journalist told CNN on Sunday that the Taliban controlled much of the Gojara district near the airport and had also moved east to Karaokh.
The airport itself remains in the hands of the government.
US withdraws, Taliban step in
After nearly 20 years in Afghanistan, the US military, at the direction of President Joe Biden, is in the final stages of withdrawing troops from the country, ending America’s longest war.
The Pentagon has said that about 95% of US troops are gone and the Taliban has rapidly expanded its presence in large areas of the country. The speed at which Afghan security forces have lost control of the Taliban has shocked many and raised concerns that the capital, Kabul, could collapse. All foreign forces are expected to leave Afghanistan by August 31.
The Taliban now controls 13 of the 16 districts in Herat province, according to the Long War Journal, a US non-profit that controls territory in Afghanistan. Its maximum increase occurred in the month of July.
Nationwide, the Taliban controls 223 districts, with 116 contested and the government holding 68, according to the Long War Journal, whose calculations match CNN’s estimates. It said that 17 of the 34 provincial capitals were directly threatened by the Taliban.
The Taliban have gained an overwhelming majority since the withdrawal of US forces in May, following President Biden’s announcement that all US combat forces would leave Afghanistan by the end of August.
Bill Rogio, editing the Long War Journal, said on Saturday that “the withdrawal of American air assets, which provided more than 80% of combat power to fight the Taliban, and to provide maintenance to civilian contractors, as well as to combat Has been kept for. Heavy pressure on the Afghan Air Force.”
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on 21 July that the deteriorating security situation across Afghanistan in the wake of the withdrawal of foreign troops and the Taliban’s advances has forced an estimated 294,000 from their homes since January, bringing the total internally The number of displaced has exceeded 3.5. One million.