The Taliban said they have completely seized Islam Qala, a border town in the western Herat province through which lucrative trade with neighboring Iran flows. Afghan officials there reportedly fled to Iran for safety.
“Islam Qala is now under our full control and we will try to put it back in operation today,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant movement, told AFP.
On Thursday, an anonymous Afghan official told AP that the Taliban took over customs at the crossing point. Videos purportedly shot at the scene seemed to confirm the capture of the strategically important location.
The Taliban said they took control of the town as of Thursday evening. Officials loyal to the central government in Kabul reportedly fled from Taliban forces into Iranian territory.
Iran is a major supplier of goods to Afghanistan, with exports reaching some $2 billion last year. A large portion of trade goes through the Dogharoon-Islam Qala route, which in particular serves as a major hub for the import of fuel, reportedly through smuggling operations as well.
Taliban fighters have been rapidly seizing more territory in Afghanistan lately, often with little resistance from the government forces. The militants took over border crossings with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan last week.
The advancement comes amid the ongoing withdrawal of NATO-led foreign troops from the country. The US, the leading force in the two-decade-long effort to prop up the government in Kabul, wants to complete its pullout by the end of August, while many other members of the coalition have already left Afghanistan completely.