Taliban fighters claimed on Wednesday to have gained control of the strategic Afghan border crossing to Pakistan at Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan.
"The [Taliban] mujahideen have captured an important border town called Wesh in Kandahar," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. "With this, the important road between [Spin] Boldak and Chaman and Kandahar customs have come under mujahideen control."
It is the latest territorial gain reported by the Islamic insurgents since the US and other NATO countries accelerated their troop withdrawal..
Former US President George W. Bush, whose administration led the country to war against the Afghan Taliban in 2001,told DW that the withdrawal of NATO troops was "a mistake."
Women and girls were "just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart," he added.
Can the Taliban's claim be confirmed?
A Pakistan security source confirmed to the AFP news agency that the insurgents had taken control of the crossing.
"The Taliban has taken control of the Afghan side of the Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing," the Pakistani security source told AFP on condition of anonymity. "They have raised their flag and removed the Afghan flag."
The official said the crossing has "great importance in Afghan trade with
Pakistan and other countries."
The Afghan Defense Ministry, however, said it was checking developments.
CNN, meanwhile, reported that it had several video sequences showing at least a dozen surrendering and unarmed Afghan commandos being shot dead by Taliban fighters last month.
The US State Department said it had no reason to doubt the videos' authenticity.
The alleged executions took place on June 16 at Dawlat Abad in northern Faryab province bordering Turkmenistan — a town known for its carpet-weaving.
On Wednesday, the Taliban denied the portrayals as "fictitious," claiming the CNN report was a "fake scene" combining footage from Faryab province clashes when 22 commandos killed.
"'This is not the first time the Taliban have shot dead our soldiers," said Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesperson Fawad Aman.
Russia warns Taliban amid sweeping territory gains
The Taliban are reportedly sweeping across Afghanistan's rural areas, bringing more territories under their control, despite political and military control having been handed to the Afghan government.
Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned the Taliban that any attempt to harm the security of Russia's allies in Central Asia would lead to significant casualties, Russia's RIA news agency reported.
A Taliban delegation in Moscow last week sought to reassure Russia it would not allow the country to be used as a platform to attack others.
How important is the Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing?
The Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing links Pakistan with Afghanistan and Afghan government data shows about 900 trucks cross the frontier each day.
The Taliban have reported capturing a number of other crucial border crossings and territory in rural areas of Afghanistan in recent weeks.
The hardline Islamic militants now control Islam Qala and Turghundi in Herat province, ShirKhan Bandar in Kunduz and Abu Naser Farahi border port in Farah province, according to Shafiqullah Attai, the chairman of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment.
The Taliban is now profiting from the customs revenue gathered at the border points under their control.
"We don't have exact figures on the volume of trade and transit conducted from these ports as they are now with the Taliban... income has started to go to the Taliban," Attai told news agency Reuters.
kmm/sms (Reuters, AFP)