Taliban forces captured Wesh, a town in the southern Afghan province, on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the militant group, Zabihullah Mujahid. He also said that an important road linking to the Wesh-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan was also under their control. Afghan troops reportedly surrendered the key trade route hours earlier following a battle with the Islamist militants.
In a statement released on Twitter, Mujahid reassured locals that the Taliban would maintain security in the area and that cross-border trade would resume once an agreement has been reached with Pakistan.
Afghan government officials did not immediately respond to the news. According to media reports, Pakistani officials reacted to the Taliban’s latest territorial gain by “completely” sealing the crossing to travel and trade.
The insurgent group now claims to control 85% of Afghanistan’s territory but this figure has been disputed by Kabul. Last week, Taliban fighters captured two major border crossings with neighboring Iran and Turkmenistan. It’s also believed that the insurgents control approximately two-thirds of Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan.
According to Shafiqullah Attai, the chairman of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment, the Taliban are targeting border posts so that they can seize customs revenues for themselves while depriving the Afghan government of funds. He told Reuters that while there is no exact figure on the volume of trade currently going through Taliban-controlled crossings, incoming from these points of entry were already starting to go to the insurgent groups.
The security situation in Kandahar has worsened in recent days as the Taliban consolidate control over the province, and threaten to take the provincial capital outright.
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