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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Gulabuddin Amiri via PA Images Taliban fighters patrol inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan
# Foreign Affairs
Dept Foreign Affairs 'gravely concerned' over Taliban's offensive in Afghanistan
The Taliban have taken four more provincial capitals in sweep across Afghan south.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Foreign Affairs has said it is “gravely concerned” at the “scale and speed” of the Taliban’s offensive in Afghanistan. 

The Taliban have today completed their sweep of the country’s south as they took four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that brought them closer to Kabul, weeks before the US is set to officially end its two-decade war.

In the last 24 hours, the country’s second and third-largest cities — Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south — have fallen to the insurgents as has the capital of the southern province of Helmand, where American, British and Nato forces fought some of the bloodiest battles of the conflict.

The blitz through the Taliban’s southern heartland means the insurgents now hold half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and control more than two-thirds of the country — weeks before the US plans to withdraw its last troops.

The Western-backed Afghan government in the capital Kabul still holds a smattering of provinces in the centre and east, as well as the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Kabul is not directly under threat yet, but the resurgent Taliban were battling government forces in Logar province, 50 miles from the capital.

The US military has estimated Kabul could come under pressure within 30 days and that the Taliban could overrun the rest of the country within a few months. They have already taken over much of the north and west.

In a statement this afternoon, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it is “gravely concerned at the speed and scale of the Taliban’s offensive and the impact of current levels of violence on the Afghan people”. 

“As a member of the UN Security Council since January, Ireland has consistently called on the Taliban to end its campaign of violence, and to commit to a permanent ceasefire to prevent further suffering to civilians,” the Department said. 

“Ireland has also joined with the international community in urging the Taliban to re-engage in the Doha peace negotiations. A negotiated political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government is the only way to secure a lasting peace in Afghanistan,” it said.

Humanitarian issues

The UN refugee agency has said nearly 250,000 Afghans have fled their homes since the end of May, and 80% of those are women and children.

It said 400,000 civilians have been displaced since the beginning of the year, joining millions who have fled previous rounds of fighting in recent decades.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that “the gains made by the Afghan people over the past two decades, including increased respect for human rights, especially for women, children and minorities, must be protected”. 

“We are particularly concerned about reports of violence and coercion against women and children, including reports of forced marriages and sexual violence and serious human rights abuses against civilians across Afghanistan,” the Department said. 

Ireland is to host a meeting with the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security at the UN. 

“We are also monitoring the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which is exacerbating pre-existing challenges, including poverty, hunger, the ongoing drought and escalating violence in the country,” the Department said. 

“We will respond to those urgent needs in partnership with the EU and UN agencies, the ICRC and international NGOs, while continuing to be a voice for the protection of civilians, humanitarian actors and human rights defenders in Afghanistan at the UN Security Council in line with our values.” 

With reporting by Press Association

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