Taliban completed their sweep of the country’s south on Friday as they took four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that is gradually encircling Kabul, just weeks before the US is set to officially end its two-decade war.
The latest significant blow was the loss of the capital of Helmand province, where American, British and allied Nato forces fought some of the bloodiest battles in the past 20 years. Hundreds of foreign troops were killed in the province, which is also a major opium hub.
The insurgents have taken half of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in recent days, including its second- and third-largest cities, Herat and Kandahar.
The Taliban now control more than two-thirds of the country just weeks before the US plans to withdraw its last troops.
While the capital of Kabul isn’t directly under threat yet, the losses and advances elsewhere further tighten the grip of a resurgent Taliban. The latest US military intelligence assessment suggests Kabul could come under insurgent pressure within 30 days and that, if current trends hold, the Taliban could gain full control of the country within a few months.
In the south, the insurgents swept through the capitals of Zabul and Uruzgan provinces, in addition to Helmand’s.
Britain said it would deploy around 600 troops to help its nationals and local translators get out.
In response to the Taliban swift and violent advances, the Pentagon said it would send about 3,000 extra troops within 48 hours to help evacuate embassy staff.
Twelve nations, including the US, India and China, along with representatives of the UN and EU have decided that they would not recognise any government in Afghanistan that seeks to take control through the barrel of a gun, the State Department has said, amid the continued Taliban offensive across the war-torn country.
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