West News Wire: Taliban forces captured a major city in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, sending Afghan forces fleeing, and drew closer to Kabul, where Western countries scrambled to evacuate their citizens from the capital.
The fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, confirmed by a provincial council official, was another important capture for the hardline militants, who have swept through the country in recent weeks as U.S.-led forces withdrew. Kabul and Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, are now the only big cities not in Taliban hands.
The United States and Britain are now rushing several thousand troops back into the country to evacuate citizens amid concern Kabul could soon be overrun.
Security forces from Mazar-i-Sharif were escaping towards the border, Afzal Hadid, head of the Balkh provincial council, told Reuters.
“The Taliban have taken control of Mazar-I-Sharif,” he said. “All security forces have left Mazar city.” The city appeared to have fallen largely without a fight, although sporadic clashes were continuing nearby, he said.