Taliban close Spin Boldak border,
demand for visa-free travel

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KABUL: The Taliban closed a key border crossing with Pakistan on Friday, saying no one would be allowed through until Islamabad dropped or relaxed its visa requirements for Afghans.

The Taliban, wresting control of Afghanistan in the wake of a withdrawal of US and other foreign troops, last month captured the southeast Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing from Afghan forces.

Pakistan initially closed its side of the crossing, landlocked Afghanistan’s second busiest entry point and main commercial artery to the sea, before reopening it last week.

In a statement on Friday, the Taliban statement called on Pakistan to scrap all visa requirements for Afghans.

“(The crossing) will remain closed for all types of commuting, including transit and trade, for both sides, and pedestrians, until the Pakistani side leaves the gate open, morning to evening, for Afghans holding [Pakistani issued] migration cards or [Afghan] ID cards,” the insurgent group’s shadow governor for Kandahar province said in the statement.

This file photo shows the Friendship Gate on the Pakistan-Afghan border. The Taliban closed the border crossing on Friday, saying no one would be allowed through until Islamabad dropped or relaxed its visa requirements for Afghans.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group’s leadership had endorsed the move, and on Friday the border had been closed.

The Taliban have also taken control of several border crossings, including with Iran and Central Asian countries, but the crossing with Pakistan provides a significant customs revenue.

Ensuring it is open for visa-free travel would not only curry favour with ordinary Afghans, but also shore up a route to parts of Pakistan that have historically housed the insurgent group’s fighters and part of its leadership.

Afghan government data indicates the route was used by 900 trucks a day before the Taliban seized it.

The closure could impact import of medicines and other essential goods as violence has sharply escalated in Afghanistan amidst a pandemic, with the United Nations saying hundreds of thousands have been displaced internally.

Pakistani border officials at Chaman said that the Taliban had placed concrete barriers to block the road on their side of the Friendship Gate, the crossing point between the two countries.

Many Afghans living in Pakistan have been issued migration cards by Islamabad allowing them to stay, but those who want to enter Pakistan today need to obtain a visa.

Taliban seize more areas

The Taliban tightened the noose around northern Afghanistan Sunday, capturing three more provincial capitals as they take their fight to the cities after seizing much of the countryside in recent months.

The insurgents have snatched up five provincial capitals in Afghanistan since Friday in a lightning offensive that appears to have overwhelmed government forces.

Kunduz, Sar-e-Pul and Taloqan in the north fell within hours of each other Sunday, lawmakers, security sources and residents in the cities confirmed. In Kunduz, one resident described the city as being enveloped in “total chaos.”

“After some fierce fighting, the mujahideen, with the grace of God, captured the capital of Kunduz,” the Taliban said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

“The mujahideen also captured Sar-e-Pul city, the government buildings and all the installations there.” The insurgents said on Twitter on Sunday evening that they had also taken Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province.

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According to an ANI report,

The Taliban have captured Samangan province’s capital Aybak city on Monday amid US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“Most parts of Aybak city, the capital of Samangan province, fell to the Taliban this afternoon, said two lawmakers from Samangan, Abdalullah Mohammadi and Ziauddin Zia. They said Afghan forces retreated from the city without fighting,” Tolo News tweeted. In a major blow to the Afghan government, the Taliban have so far seized control of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, Taluqan city, Sheberghan and Nimroz province’s capital Zaranj.
The terror group’s aggressive offensive has killed many government forces members and innocent civilians. Multiple reports have claimed that the group has been looting innocent civilians after capturing multiple areas.
The Taliban’s recent skirmish became aggressive soon after the US troops started leaving war-torn Afghanistan in large numbers under the new peace deal signed between Washington and the insurgent group in February last year.
As the Taliban intensified attacks, Afghanistan started urging global organisations and to address the deteriorating situation in the country.
On Saturday evening, the US B-52 bombers targeted a Taliban gathering in Afghanistan’s Shebergan city. The terror group suffered heavy casualties during the US Air Forces strikes. (ANI)