The Taliban terror group captured Islam Qala, a strategic border town linking Afghanistan with Iran, on Thursday, the BBC reported on Friday.
Islam Qala is “under our full control,” Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on July 9, as quoted by the British broadcaster. A video clip circulating on social media on Friday appeared to show a pair of Taliban terrorists removing an Afghan national flag from an Islam Qala building.
Iranian media have widely shared this video, reportedly showing Taliban fighters taking down the flag of Afghanistan at the Islam Qala border crossing. pic.twitter.com/2s1SBeOoTq
— Kian Sharifi (@KianSharifi) July 9, 2021
Islam Qala is located in Afghanistan’s western Herat Province. The town’s border crossing “is one of the biggest trade gateways into Iran, generating an estimated $20 [million] (£14m) in monthly revenue for the government,” according to the BBC.
Two senior security officials within Afghanistan’s government told Reuters anonymously on July 8 “the Islam Qala border crossing with Iran … had fallen to the Taliban and that Afghan security and customs officials had fled across the border.”
Afghan government soldiers entered Iranian territory via the Islam Qala border crossing “to escape the Taliban,” Al Alalam TV, Iran’s official Arabic language news service, reported on Thursday.
Taliban terrorists “seized five districts in Herat without a fight,” another anonymous Afghan government security official told Reuters on July 8.
Tariq Arian, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s interior ministry, denied reports the Taliban had seized Islam Qala on July 8. He insisted Afghan government troops were still in control of the strategic border crossing as of Thursday.
“All Afghan security forces including the border units are present in the area [of Islam Qala], and efforts are underway to recapture the site,” Arian told Agence France-Presse on Friday.
Taliban terrorists recently “captured an important district in Herat province, home to tens of thousands of minority Shi’ite Hazaras,” local Afghan government officials told Reuters on July 9. While the news agency did not disclose the name of the captured Hazara district, the U.S. public broadcaster NPR in 2007 profiled a then-emerging community called Rawzi that Shiite Afghans were building near Herat Province’s capital, also called Herat, “about a two-hour drive from the border with Iran.”
“During decades of fighting in Afghanistan, minority Shiite Muslims were among those who fled to neighboring Iran, where their branch of Islam is the majority. But now, some are resettling in Afghanistan not far from the border with Iran, fueling long-held suspicions of Tehran’s motives,” NPR reported at the time.
“The Hazaras, like most Iranians, are Shiite Muslims. Most Afghans are Sunni,” NPR noted. Afghanistan’s Taliban terror group is centered on jihadist ideology rooted in Sunni Islam.
The Taliban has reportedly overtaken 85 percent of Afghan territory in recent weeks as the United States leads a total troop withdrawal from the country along with allied members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.). The U.S. has pulled more than 90 percent of its military personnel from Afghanistan and says it will complete the exit by September. The U.S. and N.A.T.O. are terminating a nearly 20-year-long joint military operation in Afghanistan that launched in 2001 with the ouster of the Taliban from the Afghan government.