ISLAMABAD: The Taliban on Wednesday claimed to have captured a key town in the southern Kandahar province that serves as Afghanistan’s major border crossing with Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.
Pakistani authorities sealed the Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing for all kinds of trade and travel after the Taliban captured the area, border security officials said.
In a video shared with TOI, an Afghan insurgent leader called it a “peaceful” takeover of the border post in Wesh town of the southern Afghan province and claimed that 50 border guards had joined them without putting resistance. The video shows Pak-Afghan flags being hoisted over a building in the background.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the militant group, said an important road linking to the Wesh-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan was now under their control.
Afghan troops, locals in the border areas said, surrendered the key trade route following a fierce battle with the insurgents.
In a Twitter post, Mujahid reassured locals that the Taliban would maintain security in the area and that cross-border trade would resume once an agreement has been reached with Pakistan.
The post is the second-most important crossing on the border of landlocked Afghanistan with Pakistan, linking the southern Afghan city of Kandahar to Pakistani ports. Afghan government data shows about 900 trucks cross the Chaman-Spin Boldak frontier every day.
The militants seized control of the post a week after Afghanistan’s main trade gateways with neigbouring Iran and Turkmenistan in the western Herat province had fallen to the Taliban.
With the spectre of civil war looming over the country, the Taliban have intensified their offensives from the country’s north to the south since the US forces vacated their largest military base in Bagram. In recent weeks, insurgents have even gained ground in areas that had never been considered as their stronghold.
Hundreds of Afghan soldiers had fled to Tajikistan and many others surrendered earlier this month when the Taliban captured most of the northern province of Badakhshan, bordering China and Pakistan.
One of the most significant victories of the insurgent forces in recent weeks was the capture of Panjwai district in Kandahar. It had fallen to the Taliban hours after the Americans vacated the Kandahar military base. It has put Kandahar city, the second biggest city in Afghanistan, under siege.
Kandahar, which is the birthplace of the Taliban movement, had been the venue of fierce battles between the insurgents and Nato forces for over a decade.
The Taliban, according to independent sources, now claim to have control over 200 out of 460 districts in 34 provinces. Most of them have fallen to the insurgents after the US and Nato forces began withdrawal of their remaining forces in the war-torn country.