Kabul/Washington: US President Joe Biden has ordered B-52 bombers and Spectre gunships to target Taliban positions in Afghanistan as the militants are advancing towards key cities.
The B-52s are flying into Afghanistan from an airbase in Qatar, hitting targets around Kandahar, Herat, and Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, The Times quoted sources as saying.
The bombers are being supported by AC-130 Spectre gunships which are armed with a 25mm Gatling gun, a 40mm Bofors cannon and a 105mm M102 cannon, which can provide pinpoint accurate fire from the air.
The move comes amid an increasingly dire situation in Afghanistan, as the Taliban continues to seize territory across the country as US-led forces withdraw.
Afghan security forces and the Taliban are engaged in fierce fighting in the capital cities of Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan provinces in the north of Afghanistan.
The Pentagon estimates that the Taliban now control half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers.
On Friday, the Taliban seized Zaranj in Nimroz, making it the first provincial capital to be captured by the militants since they began their military campaign in May.
The Taliban also assassinated the government’s chief media officer, Dawa Khan Menapal, on Friday in Kabul.
The Public Health Directorate in Kunduz said that 11 civilians were killed and 39 more were wounded in a fresh spate of clashes in Kunduz that started on Friday evening, Tolo News reported.
In Badakhshan, police said Taliban attacks on the city of Faizabad were pushed back by Afghan forces.
The strategic city of Sheberghan, the capital of Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban after one week of clashes, sources confirmed.
Sources said that security forces are stationed only at the provincial airport in Khwaja Dako district, which is the hometown of former vice president Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum and is located 17 km from the city of Sheberghan.
Sheberghan is the second provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in the last two days.
This comes as President Ashraf Ghani met with former vice president Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum on Saturday and discussed the country’s security situation, especially in the northern provinces, the Presidential Palace said.
In this meeting, Dostum vowed his full support to the Afghan forces and said the time has come to make an effort for improving the country’s security situation and for defending Afghanistan’s values.
Dostum’s spokesman Ehsanullah Nairo said that Dostum presented his plan for the improvement of the security situation to the president, and it was accepted by President Ghani.
Footage on social media shows dozens of Afghan security forces along with their military equipment and vehicles driving towards the border with Iran, leaving Zaranj city, the center of Nimroz province in southwestern Afghanistan, without any resistance.
Meanwhile, the US embassy in Afghanistan urged US citizens in the country to flee immediately.
“Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul,” the US said on Saturday.
It said it would provide citizens who could not afford to leave at once with a repatriation loan, which includes money to help return home. The US already recalled non-essential employees of its Kabul office back home in April.