Six more districts fall as Taliban keeps pressure on Afghanistan

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PUL-E-KHUMRI, May 20, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants attend a surrender ceremony in Pul-e-Khumri, capital of Baghlan province, Afghanistan, May 20, 2020. Fifteen Taliban militants surrendered and handed over their weapons in Afghanistan's northern province of Baghlan on Wednesday, as the government has been trying to reconcile the insurgents after more than two decades of insurgency. (Photo by Sahel/Xinhua)
PUL-E-KHUMRI, May 20, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants attend a surrender ceremony in Pul-e-Khumri, capital of Baghlan province, Afghanistan, May 20, 2020. Fifteen Taliban militants surrendered and handed over their weapons in Afghanistan's northern province of Baghlan on Wednesday, as the government has been trying to reconcile the insurgents after more than two decades of insurgency. (Photo by Sahel/Xinhua)

Afghan government forces abandoned or were pushed out of six district centers across the country in the past 24 hours, as Taliban militants gain more ground, local officials confirmed on Monday.

The fallen district are Obe in Herat, Saghar in Ghor, Sayad in Sar-e Pul, Arghandab in Zabul, and Lash-e Juwayn and Pusht-e Road districts in Farah provinces.

The service members, who were under siege in the district centres for a long time, have either escaped to join other forces or evacuated with the help of air support after they did not receive air and ground support, according to the provincial councillors. Some also left their military equipment and ammunition behind.

Local officials further said that it was not clear immediately what happened to some soldiers who had retreated.

In addition to the six fallen districts, Khan Abad district in Kunduz was briefly captured by the insurgents on Monday, but security forces retook it.

The militants have seen a string of gains recently. Since the beginning of the official withdrawal of the United States and other NATO troops on May 1, at least 23 districts have fallen to the Taliban.

Afghanistan has 34 provinces and around 400 districts. District centres serve as secondary-level administrative units, one level below the provinces.

A source within the government says that the evacuation of non-strategic districts, bases, and checkpoints are aimed to protect key cities and districts from collapse. However, concerns are growing about the capability of security forces following a complete withdrawal of the international forces.

Last week, the US Central Command estimated that it had completed more than 50 per cent of the withdrawal process.

According to a UN report, the Taliban was able to capture five districts last year, four of which were recaptured by the government within several days.

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