Afghan Army Chief General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai has been removed as the Taliban continued to advance on urban centers in the war-raged country.
According to media reports, Major General Haibatullah Alizai, the chief of Special Operations Command, has taken over as the senior military commander after replacing Ahmadzai.
The reason for the army chief’s dismissal was not given by the current authorities, but it comes at a time when the Afghan armed forces are engaged in a fierce battle with militants who have taken control of smaller administrative districts in recent weeks.
Militant gains have resulted in the takeover of nine of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals from Afghan troops.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani traveled to Mazar-i-Sharif, a besieged northern city where Taliban militants have seized control of more than a quarter of the country’s provincial capitals, to rally his embattled troops.
After a weekend assault in the north, Taliban militants captured the sixth Afghan province capital on Monday. The government troops struggled to hold the fighters at bay throughout the weekend assault, which saw major areas fall in rapid succession.
After taking Sheberghan to the west and Kunduz and Taloqan to the east, the Taliban declared that they were closing in on Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in the north and a cornerstone for the government’s control of the area.
Taliban militants had infiltrated the city, according to a spokesperson, but authorities and locals reached by phone claimed the organization was exaggerating, and that fighting was limited to the neighboring areas.
Meanwhile, in the south, the Taliban raged, with Afghan troops engaged in intense street-to-street combat with the militants.
Since May, when the US-led military coalition started the last part of a withdrawal scheduled to be completed by the end of the month, fighting in Afghanistan’s long-running war has risen significantly.