Taliban 'law' sees 'thiefs' painted black and dragged through streets

Taliban 'law' sees 'thiefs' painted black and dragged through streets

The Taliban’s medieval punishment returns: ‘Thieves’ are tarred and paraded through Herat as jihadis vow to enter Kabul ‘like a roaring lion’ and British and US troops prepare evacuation plans

  • Pictures show men accused of theft being painted black and dragged through streets of Herat, Afghanistan
  • Criminals, with noose around their necks, are marched along by armed men who gesticulate to crowds
  • British Government has said 600 troops will be sent in to support evacuation of Brits and former Afghan staff 
  • Taliban continue to sweep eastwards towards Kabul after taking Afghanistan’s third most populous city, Herat

Disturbing new images from Taliban-controlled Herat in Afghanistan purportedly show men accused of theft painted entirely in black and paraded through the streets.

The pictures, which show men tarred in black with nooses around their necks being dragged through the streets by armed gunmen, were shared online in the wake of the Taliban seizing control of Herat on Thursday. 

With the 20th anniversary to 9/11 looming, Afghanistan risks falling to the Taliban after the militant group seized control of two thirds of the nation following the prolonged withdrawal of US and UK troops.

Taliban commanders have ‘vowed to enter Kabul like a roaring lion’ as their rampage towards the strategic stronghold, and capital of the country, continues.

The Times reports one senior figure saying: ‘We will enter Kabul like a roaring lion soon, God willing, hopefully within this month and wrap up the American puppets who are already in a state of fear.

‘Their silence on our triumphs in the south and west speaks for itself and they are hiding like cowards.’ 

Meanwhile, the son of one of Afghanistan’s influential political families, Sultan Ghani, reportedly shared pictures on his private social media accounts showing him taking a private jet out of the country with the caption: ‘Moving from one crisis to the another as elegantly as I can’.

Boris Johnson said tonight that it is not ‘realistic’ to expect outside powers to impose a ‘combat solution’ on Afghanistan as the Taliban’s surging advance closes on Kabul and British and US troops are sent into evacuate Westerners. 

The Prime Minister said: ‘There isn’t a military solution. Thanks to the efforts of the UK armed services and all the sacrifices they made we have seen no al Qaida attacks against the West for a very long time.’

The pictures, which show men tarred in black with nooses around their necks being dragged through the streets by armed gunmen, were shared online in the wake of the Taliban seizing control of Herat, Afghanistan on Thursday

The men pictured above are purportedly accused of theft, and have been tarred in black and dragged through the streets by armed Taliban sympathisers 

The armed insurgents celebrated in the streets of Afghanistan’s third most populous city, Herat, as the Taliban continue their march eastwards towards Kabul

‘I think we have got to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution – a combat solution – in Afghanistan.’

He spoke after the Taliban seized large swathes of Helmand province , where hundreds of UK troops died over more than a decade of fighting that has seen 454 UK personnel killed since 9/11.  

‘What we certainly can do is work with all our partners in the region around the world who share an interest with us in preventing Afghanistan once again becoming a breeding ground for terror.’  

After a week of intense fighting saw the Taliban seize control of swathes of the country, the Prime Minister said the UK can be ‘extremely proud’ of its role in the last 20 years.

But after leading a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee yesterday, Mr Johnson insisted there was no military solution to the deteriorating security situation.  

And he denied that the sacrifices made by British forces in Afghanistan had been in vain.

Some of the 600 soldiers headed to Kabul to evacuate Britons are pictured on a military transport headed to Kabul 

Members of the Parachute Regiment are among  the troops being sent to Afghanistan with the Taliban just 90 miles from Kabul 

Boris Johnson said tonight that it is not ‘realistic’ to expect outside powers to impose a ‘combat solution’ on Afghanistan

 

‘I don’t think that it was in vain. If you look back at what has happened over the last 20 years there was a massive effort to deal with a particular problem that everybody will remember after 9/11,’ he said.

‘That was successful. To a very large extent the threat from al Qaida on the streets of our capital, around the UK, around the whole of the West was greatly, greatly reduced.

‘I believe it was right, it was worth it and what we must do now is not turn our backs on Afghanistan.’

Some 600 troops are due to deploy to Kabul within days to evacuate British nationals as a mass exodus begins to escape the ravages of the hardliners.  

He finally addressed the situation after fierce criticism from Labour and even his own MPs over his silence on the issue.

The crisis worsened yesterday as the Taliban continued its bloody advance, seizing control of Afghanistan’s second largest city Kandahar.

The special forces unit will rally those who are entitled to fly and transport them to an airport which will be secured by paratroopers and US marines

It now controls more than two-thirds of the country and is closing in on the capital Kabul.

Mr Johnson said yesterday it was not realistic to expect outside powers to impose a ‘combat solution’ on Afghanistan.

‘There isn’t a military solution. Thanks to the efforts of the UK armed services and all the sacrifices they made, we have seen no al-Qaeda attacks against the West for a very long time,’ he said.

‘I think we have got to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution, a combat solution, in Afghanistan. What we certainly can do is work with all our partners in the region around the world who share an interest with us in preventing Afghanistan once again becoming a breeding ground for terror.’

Mr Johnson insisted the 457 British military personnel killed in the country had not died ‘in vain’ and said the military intervention that began 20 years ago was right and had been ‘worth it’.

He suggested he had no choice but to pull out troops as he was dealing with the ‘consequences’ of the US’s decision to withdraw.

Tory MPs had earlier accused him of a ‘shameful’ silence as the situation deteriorated and questioned whether he had done enough to persuade Joe Biden to not pull out US troops.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace yesterday said the US withdrawal was a ‘mistake’ and the West will ‘probably pay the consequences’.

He voiced fears about the resurgence of al-Qaeda – the terror group behind 9/11 – who he warned could plot attacks on British soil.

He told Sky News: ‘Of course I am worried, it is why I said I felt this was not the right time or decision to make because, of course, al-Qaeda will probably come back, certainly would like that type of breeding ground.

‘That is what we see – failed states around the world lead to instability, lead to a security threat to us and our interests.’

He refused to rule out further military action in the country, telling LBC: ‘I’m going to leave every option open. If the Taliban have a message from last time, you start hosting al-Qaeda, you start attacking the West or countries, we could be back.’

Last night, the Prime Minister faced growing calls from some of his own backbenchers as well as opposition party politicians for Parliament to be recalled.

The Lib Dems demanded MPs are brought back from their summer break and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour could join the push to hold the Government to account if it did not show a clear strategy.

Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the Commons defence committee, urged Mr Johnson to call an emergency session of the UN Security Council and to ‘consider recall of Parliament to seek views on leading a non-US led coalition and prevent a full scale civil war’.

Grieving families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan also spoke of their anger as the Taliban captured territory UK troops fought and died to protect.

Donald Trump and the Taliban signed a deal last February for the US to withdraw from Afghanistan. Joe Biden has continued with the withdrawal timetable, with all troops due to have left by the symbolic date of September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

The UK Government announced on Thursday around 600 troops are being deployed to help evacuate British nationals and former Afghan staff.

Meanwhile in Kabul, US troops sent to evacuate embassy staff reportedly started to arrive at the international airport, with more expected over the next 24 hours.

And hundreds of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the country will return to the brutal, repressive rule imposed by the previous Taliban government. The UN Refugee Agency said nearly 250,000 Afghans have fled their homes since the end of May. 

The announcement came hours after the Home Office said Home Secretary Priti Patel had taken on the role’s responsibilities following criticism of the Government for failing to replace James Brokenshire – who had left the post last month.

The Pentagon claimed on Friday it did not believe Kabul was under imminent threat from the rapid Taliban advance, as the first of 3000 U.S. troops arrived in the Afghan capital to protect embassy staff.

Earlier Taliban fighters seized the country’s second and third biggest cities, and their fighters closed to within 50 miles of Kabul.

The speed of their advance has sent Western nations scrambling to bring home civilian staff.

And a defense official told the Associated Press that an attack on Kabul could come within days.

Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby declined to say whether officials were surprised by the way Afghan forces had failed to slow the advance.

‘We are certainly concerned by the speed with which the Taliban has been moving,’ he said.

‘And as we’ve said from the very beginning, this still is a moment for Afghan national security and defence forces, as well as their political leadership.

‘No outcome has to be inevitable here.’

‘We’re obviously watching this just like you’re watching this and seeing it happen in real time, and it’s deeply concerning.’

Instead, he echoed President Biden and other administration officials in insisting that Afghan security forces held the advantage over the Taliban.

‘We will do what we can from the air, but they have the advantage,’ he said.

They have greater numbers. They have an air force. They have modern weaponry.

‘It’s indigenous forces that can make the difference on the ground.’

The signs so far are that Afghan forces are struggling, despite billions of dollars in U.S. training and equipment.

In some cases they have simply melted away or switched sides in the face of an insurgency emboldened by Biden’s promise to end the U.S. combat mission by Aug 31.

‘They have the benefit of the training that we have provided them over 20 years,’ said Kirby. ‘They have the material, the physical – the tangible – advantages.

‘It’s time now to use those advantages.’

Yet the Taliban advance continued at rapid pace on Friday. They took four more provincial capitals on Friday, including Ghazni on the road south out of Kabul.

Staff at the U.S. embassy were told on Friday to begin destroying sensitive information or anything that could be used by the Taliban, according to a management memo obtained by CNN.

A former diplomat told DailyMail.com it suggested that plans were further advanced for fleeing the compound than officials had suggested.

But Kirby said the capital was not at imminent risk of Taliban capture.

‘Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment,’ he said.

‘But clearly … if you just look at what the Taliban has been doing you can see that they are trying to isolate Kabul.’

In the meantime, the first forces of a Marine battalion arrived at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

‘I expect that by the end of the weekend the bulk of the 3,000 that we talked about yesterday will be in place,’ said Kirby.   

Yesterday, militants seized Pol-e Alam – the provincial capital of Logar – which lies less than 40 miles south of Kabul, according to a local official. They also captured the key cities of Lashkar Gah – the capital of the southern province of Helmand – earlier on Friday, and the capitals of Kandahar and Herat on Thursday, tightening the group’s grip on the country.

 The loss of Helmand’s provincial capital of Kandahar in the past 24 hours comes after years of toil and blood spill by American, British and allied NATO forces. Estimates suggest those countries lost some 800 troops over the decades-long war there.

Britain alone lost more than 450 troops in Afghanistan. Just over 400 were the result of hostile action, and the vast majority of causalities were in Helmand province.

Former army officer and ex-defence minister Tobias Ellwood invoked Winston Churchill – the PM’s political hero – after the evacuation deployment was announced. 

Ellwood, chairman of the defence committee, said on Twitter: ‘What would Churchill say? This is NOT our finest hour. What happened to GLOBAL BRITAIN and AMERICA IS BACK?

‘The largest high tech military alliance ever – defeated by an insurgency armed with mines, RPGs and AK47s. We can and must do better.’

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace this morning said that the withdrawal of the US, the dominant military force in Afganistan, had meant the UK had to leave as well. He said there has been no international will to carry on without Washington’s involvement.

But former defence minister and Afghanistan veteran Johnny Mercer contested the idea that the UK cannot act alone in the central Asian country.

The Conservative MP said the current situation was ‘deeply humiliating’, telling BBC Breakfast: ‘This idea we cannot act unilaterally and support the Afghan security forces is simply not true.

‘The political will to see through enduring support to Afghanistan has not been there and a lot of people are going to die because of that, and for me that is extremely humiliating.

‘It’s a world tragedy and we are going to reap the repercussions of this over many years to come.’ 

It all comes little more than a month after US president Joe Biden said: ‘The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.’  

The economic centres of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second biggest city, and Lashkar Gah – the capital of the southern province of Helmand where many British troops were stationed – were the latest to fall to the insurgency, prompting questions over how long the capital Kabul will hold out. Pictured: Taliban fighters in a vehicle along the roadside in Herat today

A Taliban fighter holds a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan’s third biggest city, on Friday after government forces pulled out the day before following weeks of being under siege

Taliban fighters stand on a vehicle along the roadside in Herat today. The British Government has said it will be sending 600 troops to Afghanistan to help British nationals flee the country

Up to 300,000 people have fled their homes since May, according to the UN, and thousands of refugees have headed for a makeshift camp in a public park in Kabul or towards the key border crossings to escape from Taliban rule. Spin Boldak, near Kandahar and Khan Kala, near Kabul, are two crossing points where thousands of people have been seen as they hope to enter Pakistan

UN begs Afghanistan’s neighbours to keep borders open 

The United Nations begged on Friday for neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to allow people to escape the Taliban, and U.N. agencies warned of a growing humanitarian catastrophe amid spreading hunger.

The plea comes as hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will again impose a brutal, repressive government, all but eliminating women’s rights and conduct commonplace public executions. 

Pictures from Friday showed fleeing Afghans entering neighbouring Pakistan after the country re-opened its Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing for people who had been otherwise stranded in recent weeks. 

The crossing is a major gateway between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is reported to be under Taliban control.

Juma Khan, the border town’s deputy commissioner, said the crossing was reopened following talks with the Taliban.

The decision to open the border was made after the United Nations refugee agency called on Afghanistan’s neighbours to keep crossings open as the crisis intensifies.

‘An inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives. UNHCR stands ready to help national authorities scale up humanitarian responses as needed,’ a spokesperson for the agency told a briefing in Geneva.

The World Food Programme sees food shortages in Afghanistan as ‘quite dire’ and worsening, a spokesperson added, saying the situation had all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe. 

As Western embassies prepare to send in troops to help evacuate staff, the United Nations said its 320 staff members would remain.

‘We fear the worst is yet to come and the larger tide of hunger is fast approaching… The situation has all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe,’ the World Food Programme’s Thomson Phiri told a U.N. briefing.

More than 250,000 people have been forced from their homes since May, 80 percent of them women and children, the U.N. refugee agency’s Shabia Mantoo said.

Many reported extortion by armed groups on the way and having to dodge improvised explosive devices along major roads.

Thousands of people are rushing from rural areas to the capital Kabul and other urban centres in search of shelter, another U.N. official said.

‘They are sleeping in the open, in parks and public spaces,’ Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. ‘A major concern right now is simply finding shelter for them.’

A World Health Organisation official reported a doubling of trauma cases in the last two to three months in the health facilities it supports. 

She also expressed concerns about shortages of medical supplies and said it was training medical staff on mass casualty management. 

Posting to his private Instagram account on Thursday, Sultan Ghani shared pictures of him walking across a runway to a private jet.

‘Moving from one crisis to the other as elegantly as I can’ his caption read, sparking outrage on social media.

‘While Afghanistan is burning & the ppl are suffering across the country because of his uncle’s disastrous leadership, posts these photos on his Instagram account,’ one user wrote on Twitter while sharing the images of the Sultan and his plane. 

The Taliban insurgency seized Lashkar Gah – the capital of the southern province of Helmand – on Friday, and two afghan lawmakers officials had surrendered the capital of Uruzgan province to the rapidly advancing Taliban.

On Thursday, the group took of Kandahar and Herat, marking the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban, who have taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals as part of a week-long blitz

‘The city looks like a front line, a ghost town,’ provincial council member Ghulam Habib Hashimi said of Kandahar via telephone from Herat, a city of about 600,000 people near the border with Iran.

‘Families have either left or are hiding in their homes.’

Of Afghanistan’s major cities, the government still holds Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border in the east, in addition to Kabul. 

According to recent UN data, 400,000 people have fled their homes inside Afghanistan since the start of the year, with almost 300,000 of those fleeing since May as fighting between the government and Taliban stepped up.

The vast majority of those are still inside the country, the UN says, but with Islamist fighters making rapid gains in almost every region and government forces in retreat, many are looking to leave the country.  

The government has now effectively lost control of most of Afghanistan, following an eight-day blitz into urban centres by the Taliban that has also stunned Kabul’s American backers. 

Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani’s administration now controls just three major cities – including Kabil – but is unlikely to have the logistical manpower left to marshal a successful defence of the capital without foreign aid.

The head of the council in the western province of Ghor later on Friday said the city of Feroz Koh had also fallen to the insurgents, after two Afghan lawmakers said officials surrendered Tirin Ko – the capital of Uruzgan province.

The Defence Secretary admitted UK troops could return to Afghanistan in future, warning ‘al Qaida will probably come back’ and it could again become a major breeding ground for Islamic extremist terrorists.

Yesterday morning he laid into the Republican former US leader Donald Trump, saying his ‘rotten’  February 2020 peace agreement with the Islamists was a ‘mistake’.

The UK is sending 600 soldiers and the US 3,000 to evacuate their people in scenes likened to the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. 

Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and a veteran of the conflict, said ‘the decision to withdraw is like a rug pulled from under the feet of our partners’.

‘A hasty exit is not a sign of success. Needing reinforcements to keep the door open as you leave is a sure sign of failure,’ he added.

Mr Wallace told Sky this morning: ‘I was public about it that at the time of the Trump deal – with obviously the Taliban – I felt that that was a mistake to have done it that way, that we will all as an international community pay the consequences of that, but when the United States as the framework nation took that decision, the way we were all configured, the way we had gone in meant that we had to leave as well.’

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the UK could return for future military operations if al Qaida or other terrorist organisations rise in Afghanistan, he added: ‘If you want to cut out the short-term threat globally, wherever Britain has a threat to her interests and her people, we have a global counter-terrorism capability…

‘It is obviously not as perfect as being based in a country as we have been in Afghanistan but we retain military capability to deal with a threat where we face it or we have to deal with it under international law.

‘If there is an imminent threat emanating anywhere in the world. Britain, the United States, France, other countries have a capability to deal with that.’

He added: ‘I will always deploy either force or disruptive capabilities alongside other parts of the British state – or indeed a coalition – to protect our national security and our interests. We will always do that, we will reserve the right to do it, and that is a global capability.’ 

He said that Afghanistan’s second biggest city of Kandahar and the town of Lashkar Gah was ‘pretty much now in the hands of the Taliban.’ The latter fell after two weeks of heavy fighting, according to a police official on Friday.

Former international development minister Rory Stewart called the troop withdrawal ‘a total betrayal by the US and by the UK’ that risked triggering a civil war between rival warlords currently defending against the Taliban.

Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP and former veterans minister who served in Afghanistan, called the withdrawal ‘a disgrace’.

‘I think it’s humiliating for the UK military, for the families who lost individuals over there but above all it’s a huge tragedy for the people of Afghanistan, who’ve been through so much over so many years,’ he told Times Radio.

‘We’ve chosen this defeat and it’s shameful.’ 

NATO will hold an urgent meeting Friday on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan after the US said it was sending troops to evacuate its nationals, diplomatic and official sources told AFP.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will lead discussions with envoys from the 30 allies in the meeting starting at 1300 GMT, with one source saying it would focus on evacuation planning from Afghanistan.

‘It is about determining who does what, when, and how, and what support is given for this,’ the source said.

Two Afghan lawmakers said on Friday that officials have surrendered the capital of Uruzgan province – Tirin Kot – to the rapidly advancing Taliban. The news came shortly after an Afghan official said the Taliban have captured Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand.

The loss of Helmand’s provincial capital comes after years of toil and blood spill by American, British and allied NATO forces. Estimates suggest those countries lost some 800 troops over the decades-long war there.

The Taliban were also closer to taking Logar province, at the gates of Kabul, with a Taliban spokesman saying insurgents had captured the police headquarters and city jail in the capital, Pul-e-Alam.

Earlier Friday, officials and residents in Kandahar told AFP that government forces had withdrawn en masse to a military facility outside the southern city.

‘Kandahar is completely conquered. The Mujahideen reached Martyrs’ Square,’ a Taliban spokesman tweeted, referring to a city landmark. 

Aug. 6 – ZARANJ – The Taliban take over the city in Nimroz province in the south, the first provincial capital to fall to the insurgents since they stepped up attacks on Afghan forces in early May.

Aug. 7 – SHEBERGHAN – The Taliban declare they have captured the entire northern province of Jawzjan, including its capital Sheberghan. Heavy fighting is reported in the city, and government buildings are taken over by the insurgents. Afghan security forces say they are still fighting there.

Aug. 8 – SAR-E-PUL – The insurgents take control of Sar-e-Pul, capital of the northern province of the same name. It is the first of three provincial centres to fall on the same day.

Aug. 8 – KUNDUZ – Taliban fighters seize control of the northern city of 270,000 people, regarded as a strategic prize as it lies at the gateway to mineral-rich northern provinces and Central Asia. Government forces say they are resisting the insurgents from an army base and the airport.

Aug. 8 – TALOQAN – The capital of Takhar province, also in the north, falls to the Taliban in the evening. They free prisoners and force government officials to flee.

Aug. 9 – AYBAK – The capital of the northern province of Samangan is overrun by Taliban fighters.

Aug. 10 – PUL-E-KHUMRI – The capital of the central province of Baghlan falls to the Taliban, according to residents.

Aug. 11 – FAIZABAD – The capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan is under Taliban control, a provincial council member says.

Aug. 12 – GHAZNI – The insurgents take over the city, capital of the province of the same name, a senior security officer says.

Aug 12 – FIRUS KOH – The capital of Ghor province, was handed over to the Taliban on Thursday night without a fight, security officials said.

AUG 12 – QALA-E-NAW – The Taliban have captured the capital of the northwestern province of Badghis, a security official and the Taliban said.

Aug 12 – KANDAHAR – The Taliban have captured Afghanistan’s second biggest city of Kandahar, government officials and the Taliban said.

Aug 13 – LASHKAR GAH – The Taliban have captured the capital of the southern province of Helmand, police said.

Aug 13 – HERAT – Capital of Herat province in the west was under Taliban control after days of clashes, a provincial council member said.

Aug 13 – POL-E ALAM –  Taliban captured provincial capital of Logar, 30 miles south of Kabul

Provincial capitals being contested as of Aug. 13: 

FARAH – Capital of the western province of Farah.

Hours later, the Taliban said they had also taken control of Lashkar Gah, the capital of neighbouring Helmand province.

A security source confirmed the fall of the city, telling AFP that the Afghan military and government officials had evacuated Lashkar Gah after striking a local ceasefire deal with the militants.

The government has now effectively lost control of most of the country, following an eight-day blitz into urban centres by the Taliban that has also stunned Kabul’s American backers.

The government now controls just three major cities, and is unlikely to have the logistical manpower left to marshal a successful defence of the capital.

The Taliban are moving rapidly towards Kabul with reports suggesting their fighters are making progress on the northern and southern flanks of the capital.

Of Afghanistan’s major cities, the government still holds Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border in the east, in addition to Kabul.

The insurgents on Friday held more than a dozen provincial capitals in recent days and now control more than two-thirds of the country just weeks before the U.S. plans to withdraw its last troops. 

Fazel Haq Ehsan, chief of the provincial council in western Ghor province, said on Friday that the Taliban had entered Feroz Koh, the provincial capital, and there was fighting inside the city.

The Taliban meanwhile claims to have captured Qala-e Naw, capital of the western Badghis province. There was no official confirmation.

The Taliban are also on the move in Logar province, 50 miles south of Kabul, where they claim to have seized the police headquarters in the provincial capital of Puli-e Alim as well as a nearby prison. 

Speaking to the Today Programme, a spokesperson for the Taliban blamed the Afghanistan government for the conflict, saying Taliban wanted a peaceful settlement, and that an agreement had been broken by the Kabul administration.

‘We had proposed a three-months reduction in violence about four months ago, but it was rejected by the same Kabul administration,’ the spokesperson said on Friday morning.

Suhail Shaheen – based in Doha – also called the claims of the Taliban’s brutal regime ‘propaganda’ against the group when confronted with reports about the group’s treatment of women and citizens who don’t adhere to their extremist rules.

The United Nations refugee agency called on Afghanistan’s neighbours to keep borders open as Taliban insurgent advances heightened the country’s crisis.

‘An inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives. UNHCR stands ready to help national authorities scale up humanitarian responses as needed,’ a spokesperson for the agency told a briefing in Geneva.

The World Food Programme sees food shortages in Afghanistan as ‘quite dire’ and worsening, a spokesperson added, saying the situation had all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe. 

The U.N.’s statement came after Pakistan re-opened its Chaman border crossing for people who had been stranded in recent weeks. Juma Khan, the Pakistan border town’s deputy commissioner, said the crossing was reopened following talks with the Taliban.  

Peace talks in Qatar remain stalled, though diplomats are still meeting, as the US, European and Asian nations warned that any government established by force would be rejected. 

‘We demand an immediate end to attacks against cities, urge a political settlement, and warn that a government imposed by force will be a pariah state,’ said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy to the talks. 

Ismail Khan, a veteran local commander leading militia resistance in Herat, Afghanistan, speaks to Taliban media while in their custody, in this screen grab taken from an undated video from social media uploaded on Friday

Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents detained veteran militia commander Mohammad Ismail Khan on Friday after they seized the western city of Herat, a provincial council member said.

Khan, who has been leading fighters against the Taliban in recent weeks, was handed over to the insurgents along with the provincial governor and security officials under a pact, provincial council member Ghulam Habib Hashimi told Reuters.

‘The Taliban agreed that they will not pose any threat or harm to the government officials who surrendered,’ Hashimi said.

Khan is one of Afghanistan’s most prominent warlords. Known as the Lion of Herat, he battled Soviet occupiers in the 1980s and was a key member of the Northern Alliance whose U.S.-backed forces toppled the Taliban in 2001.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that Khan had been detained.   

Pictured: Pakistani soldiers stand guard while stranded people walk towards the Afghan side at a border crossing point, in Chaman, Pakistan on Friday

Pictured: Stranded people sit around a coffin of their relative, loaded in a pickup truck moving towards the Afghan side at a border crossing point, in Chaman, Pakistan, on Friday

One clip purportedly showed prisoners – released by the Taliban – walking free down a dirt road, while another showed Taliban forces raising the group’s flag outside what was claimed to be a government building in Lashkar Gah (pictured)

Pictured: Video from August 13 purportedly showed freed prisoners walking down the street after the Taliban reportedly broke open a prison in Qalat, the capital city of Zabul

Picutred: Taliban fighters posing with a man believed to be famous warlord Ismail Khan, who is the Governor of Herat. He has been kept in his Herat residence under heavily armed Taliban guards

Taliban fighters stand on a vehicle along the roadside in Kandahar on August 13, 2021

Kandahar and Herat fell on Thursday – further squeezing the country’s embattled government just weeks before the end of the American military mission there.

The seizure of the two cities marks the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban, who have taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals as part of a week-long blitz. 

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