Afghanistan : Army chief replaced as Taliban captures key cities
The Afghan army chief has been replaced amid Taliban offensive, reports said, as the Taliban continued to make rapid advances across Afghanistan capturing key cities. General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai was on Wednesday replaced by Hibatullah Alizai, the commander of the Special Operations Corps, multiple reports including from local media said on Wednesday. “General Hibatullah Alizai, the commander of the Special Operations Corps, was appointed as the chief of army staff, replacing General Wali Ahmadzai, officials confirmed,” a tweet read.
As of Thursday morning, the Taliban insurgents have taken control of 10 provincial capitals in the northern region as the US is withdrawing its army troops from the country. Ghazni, which is just 150 kilometres away from the country’s capital of Kabul, became the latest city to be captured by the Taliban.
Afghans fleeing the heavy fighting as well as punishments meted out by the Taliban have sparked UN warnings of an imminent humanitarian crisis. The UN estimated in late July that 270,000 people had been displaced this year by the conflict.
Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights, warned that “the already atrocious situation for so many Afghans will become so much worse” if hostilities do not cease.
While the capital of Kabul has not been directly threatened in the advance, the stunning speed of the offensive raises questions of how long the Afghan government can maintain control of its countryside. The multiple fronts of the battle have stretched the government’s special operations forces while regular troops have often fled the battlefield — and the violence has pushed thousands of civilians to seek safety in the capital.
The U.S. military, which plans to complete its withdrawal by the end of the month, has conducted some airstrikes but largely has avoided involving itself in the ground campaign. The Afghan government and military did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the losses.