Afghanistan: Taliban approaches Kabul as another crucial city falls

14 August 2021, 20:48

The Afghan army is combatting the Taliban as the militants make major gains
The Afghan army is combatting the Taliban as the militants make major gains. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Another major city has fallen to the Taliban, who are now approaching Kabul, as Boris Johnson was urged to "step up" and help.

The group has made major gains, and now Mazar-i-Sharif, described by CNN as the most important city in the north, appears to have been captured.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani had just visited the city on Wednesday to meet its defenders.

Recently, the Taliban have taken the important cities of Herat and Kandahar, leaving just Jalalabad and the capital Kabul as the major areas under government control. The group also took Paktika province in the east.

There are fears Kabul could be captured within a month.

Read more: PM defends UK's role in Afghanistan as first British troops are deployed to aid evacuation

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Mr Ghani has called on international help to end the fighting. The Taliban's gains followed the withdrawal of US, British and allied forces earlier in the year.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "What I want to see is our Government stepping up and leading this, and calling for an urgent meeting of Nato and an urgent United Nations Security Council meeting.

"We have obligations to Afghanistan, we made promises to Afghanistan and we cannot walk away and let this turn into a humanitarian crisis, probably refugee crisis as well.

"There is a real risk that international terrorism will take hold again in Afghanistan, so we can't walk away and undermine the legacy of the last 20 years."

He criticised the timing of the withdrawal as "not right" and said the Taliban's strength and the resilience of Afghan troops had been miscalculated.

The UK has sent in 600 troops to assist with the evacuation of British personnel and Afghans who helped the military during its counter-insurgency operation.

There are concerns Afghans, such as translators, will face reprisals in Taliban-held territory.

The British campaign was mostly focused on Helmand province, in the south-west of the country. Its capital, Lashkar Gah, recently fell to the Taliban.

Boris Johnson held a Cobra meeting on Friday to discuss Afghanistan, and he defended Britain's role in fighting against the militant group.

The UK went in to Afghanistan with the US after the September 11 attacks because the Taliban, which ruled much of the country, allowed an Al Qaeda presence.

Mr Johnson said: "Thanks to the efforts of the UK armed services and all the sacrifices they made we have seen no al Qaida attacks against the West for a very long time.

"I think we have got to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution - a combat solution - in Afghanistan.

"What we certainly can do is work with all our partners in the region around the world who share an interest with us in preventing Afghanistan once again becoming a breeding ground for terror."