President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has replaced the army chief of staff following a Taliban blitz across the country.
A Defence Ministry official said General Hibatullah Alizai replaced General Wali Ahmadzai as the Afghan army chief of staff. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the change that has not yet been announced publicly.
Local media widely reported Ghani’s decision. Afghan government officials for days have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan have fallen to the Taliban, officials said, putting nine out of the country’s 34 regions in the hands of the insurgents amid the US withdrawal.
The officials told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the capitals of Badakhshan, Baghlan and Farah provinces have fallen.
The Taliban advance, which has taken a series of cities in quick succession, comes as President Joe Biden has ordered all US troops out of the country by the end of the month.
The militants are now battling the Western-backed government for control of several other provinces.
While the capital Kabul has not been directly threatened by the advance, the Taliban offensive continues to stretch Afghan security forces now largely fighting against the insurgents on their own.
Despite a 20-year Western military mission and billions of dollars spent training and shoring up Afghan troops, regular forces have collapsed, fleeing the battle sometimes by the hundreds.
The fighting has fallen largely to small groups of elite troops and the Afghan air force.
The success of the Taliban blitz has added urgency to the need to restart long-stalled talks in Qatar that could end the fighting and move Afghanistan towards an inclusive interim administration.
The insurgents have so far refused to return to the negotiating table.
Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in the country’s north to escape battles that have overwhelmed their towns and villages. Families have flowed into the capital Kabul, living in parks and streets with little food or water.
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned the Taliban on Tuesday that any government that comes to power through force in Afghanistan will not be recognised internationally.