The Taliban have reportedly captured a provincial capital in Zaranj and have also assassinated a top media officer in Kabul on Friday.

This dealt a severe blow to the administration of President Ashraf Ghani and his democratically elected government. It appears that a lack of reinforcement to Zaranj from the government is what allowed hardline Islamists to capture the Afghan capital.

This is the latest development as fighting continues to impose strict Islamic laws following the ouster of US-led forces in 2001. This comes after the Taliban have ramped up efforts to defeat the US-backed government as foreign forces complete their withdrawal from the region after 20 years of war.

Other provincial capitals like Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south are now under pressure following the takeover of Zaranj.

Zaranj was the first provincial capital to fall to the group since the United States reached a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 for a U.S. troop pullout. It was a big development that would boost the morale of fighters in other provinces.

“This is the beginning and see how other provinces fall in our hands very soon,” an anonymous Taliban commander stated.

Aside from that, the assassination of key personnel under the Ghani administration also continued to further weaken the government.

Taliban attackers reportedly killed Dawa Khan Menapal, head of the Government Media and Information Centre in Kabul.

Upon learning about Menapal’s death, U.S. Charge d'Affaires Ross Wilson expressed sadness about the news.

"These murders are an affront to Afghans’ human rights & freedom of speech," he stated.

Menapal was the latest from a group made up of social activists, journalists, bureaucrats, judges and public figures who were fighting to sustain a liberal Islamic administration.

"He (Menapal) was a young man who stood like a mountain in the face of enemy propaganda, and who was always a major supporter of the (Afghan) regime," Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesperson for the interior ministry said.

Taliban Fighters
Representational image. REUTERS/Mohammad Shoiab

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