KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan officials said Friday that the Taliban have captured the capital of one of Afghanistan’s western provinces, in a symbolic move in the insurgents’ relentless march to regain power in the country.
Afghan officials said Taliban fighters met little resistance in capturing Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province on the Afghan-Iranian border. They said a deal had been negotiated with the Taliban allowing city authorities to flee across the border into Iran with their families.
The attack marked the first provincial capital captured by the insurgent group since the Biden administration said it would completely withdraw US forces from Afghanistan by next month.
The capture of Zaranj is a symbolically important development in the Taliban campaign, as they moved away from targeting rural areas to focus on attacking the provincial capitals, and Zaranj was the first to fall.
The 215th Afghan National Army Corps is responsible for security in both Zaranj and Lashkar Gah, the capital of the neighboring Helmand province, which has been besieged for several days. The 215th Corps command shifted its focus to defending Askar Gah, leaving Zaranj, a city of 160,000 people, vulnerable to capture.
“All the people are hiding in their homes for fear of the Taliban,” said Khair An-Nisa Gami, a member of the provincial council. “The situation is very worrying. People are afraid,” she added, adding: “The Taliban took the city without any fighting.”
A group of these cities have been besieged by the Taliban for weeks, and the fall of Zaranj on Friday will likely be the first major Taliban intrusion. The city’s collapse came as the rebels pressed hard on other provincial towns, in a day of grim news for the government.