Hours after the Taliban captured a strategic provincial capital near Kabul on Thursday, the 10th the insurgents have taken in a weeklong sweep across Afghanistan just weeks before the end of the American military mission there, the Afghan government negotiators in Qatar have offered the Taliban a power-sharing deal.
New agency AFP quoted a source saying, "Yes, the government has submitted a proposal to Qatar as mediator. The proposal allows the Taliban to share power in return for a halt in violence in the country.”
Seizing Ghazni cuts off a crucial highway linking the Afghan capital with the country's southern provinces, which similarly find themselves under assault as part of an insurgent push some 20 years after US and NATO troops invaded and ousted the Taliban government.
While Kabul itself isn't directly under threat, the loss of Ghazni tightens the grip of a resurgent Taliban estimated to now hold some two-thirds of the nation, and thousands of people have fled their homes.
Fighting meanwhile raged in Lashkar Gah, one of Afghanistan's largest cities in the Taliban heartland of Helmand province, where surrounded government forces hoped to hold onto the capital after the militants' weeklong blitz has seen them already seized nine others around the country.
On Wednesday, a suicide car bombing marked the latest wave to target the capital's regional police headquarters. By Thursday, the Taliban had taken the building, with some police officers surrendering to the militants and others retreating to the nearby governor's office that's still held by government forces, said Nasima Niazi, a lawmaker from Helmand.
Niazi said she believed the Taliban attack killed and wounded security force members, but she had no casualty breakdown.