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Taliban Captures Border Crossing With Iran, Official Says, As Clashes Continue In North


Civilians across Afghanistan are teaming up with security forces to push back the Taliban, such as in Khost Province on July 7.

The Taliban has captured Afghanistan's main border crossing with Iran, according to an Afghan official, as the militants continue their offensive against government forces.

Noor Ahmad Mohamadi, an Afghan customs official in the western province of Herat, said the militants seized control of the Islam Qala border crossing after clashes with government forces on July 8.

Truck drivers at the border crossing told RFE/RL that some Afghan border guards and servicemen fled to Iran's side of the border.

Earlier, local officials said government forces on July 8 retreated from two districts -- Zindajan and Kushk-e Kohnah -- to avoid civilian casualties. The Taliban said it was in control of both districts.

Only four of Herat's 19 districts are believed to be under government control, with the rest in Taliban hands.

The fighting in Herat came as Afghan government forces and the Taliban clashed in a provincial capital in northwestern Afghanistan for a second day as Kabul sent hundreds of additional troops to repel the militants' assault.

Taliban extremists launched an assault on Qala-e Naw, the capital of Badghis Province, on July 7, seizing government buildings, including police headquarters and offices of the country's spy agency.

It was the Taliban's first assault on a provincial capital in Afghanistan since waging a major offensive against Afghan forces, as the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country nears completion.

Afghan officials said government forces had repelled the Taliban attack on July 7 even as locals said fighting was still raging in the city.

Badghis Governor Hessamuddin Shams said the militants launched another "large-scale offensive" on the city on July 8.

Shams claimed that the Taliban suffered "heavy casualties" and was "fleeing" the city, although there has been no independent confirmation.

His comments came as the Afghan government said it moved hundreds of troops to Qala-e Naw. The Defense Ministry said on July 8 that operations in the city had accelerated.

The Defense Ministry said air strikes in different parts of Qala-e-Naw had killed 69 Taliban fighters and wounded 23 others. The Taliban did not comment on the casualties.

Officials at the Badghis Provincial Hospital said at least 60 civilians, including women and children, were wounded in clashes over the past two days.

Afghan authorities have vowed to retake all the districts lost to the Taliban despite the U.S. troop withdrawal.

The U.S. Central Command said on July 6 that the U.S. withdrawal from the country was more than 90 percent completed.

U.S. forces have handed over seven facilities to the Afghan Defense Ministry since Biden's decision to pull the military out after almost two decades in the country.

Late last month, the U.S. government had said it wanted to complete the withdrawal by the end of August, earlier than Biden's original deadline of September 11, the 20th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attack on the United States that sparked the invasion of the country.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on July 6 that U.S. troops were now well on track to complete their pullout by the end of August.

Kirby said that the United States and its international coalition partners would continue to support Afghan security forces in the fight with the Taliban, even if there were no coalition troops on the ground.

Fighting has raged in several provinces, but the insurgents have primarily focused on a campaign across the northern countryside, seizing dozens of districts in the past two months.

Afghan defense officials have said they intend to focus on securing major cities, roads, and border towns in the face of the Taliban advance.

President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban for all the "bloodshed and destruction," adding that his government will not "surrender" to the militants, a palace statement said.

This story is based on reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld to protect their safety.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AFP
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