The insurgents have pressed on with their campaign to capture territory across Afghanistan’s rural areas since early May when the US military began its final pullout of troops from the violence-wracked country.
The fall of Panjwai district in the southern province of Kandahar comes just two days after US and NATO forces vacated their main Bagram Air Base near Kabul, from where they led operations for two decades against the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies.
Over the years, the Taliban and Afghan forces have regularly clashed in and around Panjwai, with the insurgents aiming to seize it given its proximity to Kandahar city, the provincial capital.
The leader of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, hails from Panjwai. The province of Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban, who went on to rule Afghanistan with a harsh version of Islamic sharia law until being overthrown by a US-led invasion in 2001.
Panjwai district governor Hasti Mohammad said Afghan forces and the Taliban clashed during the night, resulting in government forces retreating from the area.
“The Taliban have captured the district police headquarters and governor’s office building,” he told AFP.
Kandahar provincial council head Sayed Jan Khakriwal confirmed the fall of Panjwai, but accused government forces of “intentionally withdrawing”.
Scores of families of Panjwai fled their homes after the Taliban captured the district.
Fighting has raged across several provinces of Afghanistan and the Taliban claim to have seized more than 100 out of nearly 400 districts in the country.
Afghan authorities who have taken control of Bagram Air Base say they will use it to fight terrorism, and have already re-activated its radar system.
– FRANCE 24