On July 8th, Taliban seized control of a key district in western Afghanistan that includes a major border crossing with Iran, Afghan security officials said.
Two senior security officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the Islam Qala border crossing with Iran, located in Herat province, had fallen to the Taliban and that Afghan security and customs officials had fled across the border.
In the last week, the Taliban has overrun areas bordering five countries, including Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan. This comes as foreign forces end their 20-year intervention and the domestic security situation deteriorates.
Al Alalam TV, Iran’s official Arabic language service, also reported that Afghan soldiers had entered Iranian territory via the border crossing to escape the Taliban.
Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, denied the reports and said the border crossing was still under the control of government forces.
Earlier this week, more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled into Tajikistan as the Taliban captured most of the northern province of Badakhshan, which also borders China and Pakistan.
The defence ministry said Afghan government forces earlier on Thursday wrested back control of Qala-e-Naw, capital of the western province of Badghis, which had been stormed by the Taliban.
The ministry said 69 Taliban fighters were killed in operations on the edge of Qala-e-Naw – the first major provincial capital entered by the insurgents in their latest offensive.
The rest of Badghis province is in Taliban hands. Western security officials say the Taliban have captured more than 100 districts in Afghanistan.
The Taliban say they hold over 200 districts in 34 provinces comprising over half the country. Major cities remain under government control.
Meanwhile, An Afghan government delegation met Taliban representatives in Tehran, the Iranian foreign ministry says.
A joint statement released after the talks on Thursday said the Afghan government and Taliban agree that “war is not the solution to the Afghanistan problem” and that all efforts must be director toward achieving a peaceful political solution.
The two sides also agreed to continue talks on the specific mechanisms of achieving lasting peace and establishing an Islamic state at a later meeting whose location or date was not mentioned.
“Both sides condemn attacks that target people’s homes, mosques and hospitals and lead to destruction, and also condemn the destruction of public institutions and call for the punishment of the perpetrators,” the statement said, referring to talks hosted by Tehran as an opportunity to strengthen a political solution.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif thanked both the sides for the meeting and prioritising the Afghan people.
“Bravery in peace is more important than bravery in war because for peace, one must sacrifice and set aside maximum demands and consider the other side’s demands,” he said.
Zarif called on both sides to utilise the opportunity to talk and put an end to the fighting for the benefit of the Afghan people. He stressed that Iran will always be ready to facilitate more talks.
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