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Afghanistan Curfew Imposed As Taliban Militants Advance

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Afghan security forces begin operations against Taliban militants after being deployed around Torkham border point between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Nangarhar province, 23 July 2021

Afghan government forces have been attempting to recapture districts taken by the Taliban

The Afghan government imposed a month-long curfew across almost all of the country on Saturday in a bid to stop the Taliban from invading cities.

Apart from the capital Kabul and two other provinces, no movement is allowed from 22:00 to 04:00 (17:30-23:30 GMT).

Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has increased over the past two months as international troops pull out of the country.

The militant group is thought to have captured up to half of all territory.

It has moved swiftly in the wake of the US withdrawal, retaking border crossings and other land in rural areas.

BBC Afghanistan correspondent Secunder Kermani says there are concerns that with peace talks moving slowly, the focus of fighting will increasingly turn to more heavily populated urban centres.

The Taliban – a fundamentalist Islamist militia who were pushed out of power by the US invasion nearly 20 years ago – has also seized key roads as it seeks to cut off supply routes.

Its fighters have been closing in on a number of major cities, but have not yet been able to capture one.

The interior ministry said the new curfew was “to curb violence and limit the Taliban movements”, adding that Kabul, Panjshir and Nangarhar were exempt.

As the Taliban continues to advance, fierce clashes have taken place this week outside the city of Kandahar.

In response, the US launched airstrikes against militants in the area on Thursday. But with US operations in Afghanistan officially ending on 31 August, there are concerns about the months ahead.

US-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in October 2001. The group had been harbouring Osama Bin Laden and other figures linked to the 11 September attacks on the US.

President Biden has said the American pull-out is justified as US forces have made sure Afghanistan cannot again become a base for foreign jihadists to plot against the West.

Earlier this month, American troops quietly departed from Bagram airfield, a sprawling base that was the centre of US operations in Afghanistan and once held tens of thousands of troops.

Some US analysts fear the Taliban could take control of the country within six months.

But Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the security forces could make progress, and their priority should be to slow the momentum of the advance before trying to take territory from the Taliban.

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