September 18, 2021

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Inside an Afghan city as it falls to the Taliban – New York Post

2 min read

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan – The streets of Mazar-i-Sharif were empty when scores of Taliban fighters on bicycles swarmed through in a remarkably quiet takeover.

I spent the day at a hotel with photographer Jake Simkin, trying to reach military contacts and assess the ongoing assault on this northern city.

There was a lot of fighting, and we could see people fleeing. But everyone we were talking to said Mazar wasn’t going to fall.

Around 8 p.m. local time, we ventured out to find some dinner. We both had a sense something was amiss on the deserted streets.

We started to notice men riding around on bicycles.

As we got back to the hotel, it became clear that the city was falling to the insurgents.

The number of bikes on the streets increased. They are the Taliban, the Islamist extremists who have taken over more than half of the country in the past few weeks as they work toward renewing their control of Afghanistan, 20 years after the U.S. ousted them.

A street market closes in Mazar-e-Sharif Afghanistan on August 14, 2021.
A street market closes in Mazar-e-Sharif Afghanistan on August 14, 2021.
STRINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The city of Mazar-i-Sharif is one of the many the Taliban are over-running.
The city of Mazar-i-Sharif is one of the many the Taliban are over-running.
Jake Simkin
A family escape on a Zarang, a three wheeled motorbike as the fighting increases at the entrance to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
A family escape on a Zarang, a three wheeled motorbike as the fighting increases at the entrance to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Jake Simkin

It was a quiet takeover. There are sporadic rounds of gunfire, but no major fighting.

Mazar has fallen a lot faster than anybody could have predicted, and it’s very sad for the Afghan people.

The city is now on complete lockdown.

A homeless man rests outside a closed market in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan on August 14, 2021.
A homeless man rests outside a closed market in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan on August 14, 2021.
STRINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A general view of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
A general view of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Jake Simkin

We had scheduled a flight out for Monday night, but that’s been canceled. We’re just trying to stay put and stay calm, and figure out how to get out of here as safely and abruptly as possible when daylight comes.

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