The Taliban has now taken control of 18 provincial capitals, including its second and third-largest cities, Kandahar and Herat. The region's airport and military base just outside the city are still controlled by government forces.
The blitz through Afghanistan's southern heartland means the insurgents now hold half of the country's 34 provincial capitals and control more than two-thirds of the nation. With the latest captures, the insurgents detained veteran militia commander Mohammad Ismail Khan, known as "the Lion of Herat," one of the country's most prominent warlords.
Abdul Rashid Dostum, militia leader and former Afghan vice president said, “This time I will really kill you! They will never escape. They will all be killed. I will turn northern Afghanistan into the graveyard of the Taliban.”
The Taliban has swept through the country faster than the U.S. military expected. Although Kabul itself isn't under direct threat at the moment, the Taliban were battling for control of Logar province about 50 miles from the capital.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the U.S. "remains invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan in the face of violence by the Taliban."
The U.S. is sending 3,000 troops to help secure the exit of most of its staff from the embassy in Kabul. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, the move comes "in light of the evolving security situation.” Britain is also sending about 600 troops to support their nationals, along with Canada sending special forces for its embassy.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will reinstate the repressive rule it imposed when it was last in power. At that time, the group all but eliminated women’s rights and conducted public executions. In Herat, insurgents paraded two alleged looters through the streets with black makeup smeared on their faces.
Senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Bill Roggio said, “Whatever forces are left or remaining that are in the Kabul area and the provinces around them, they’re going to be used for the defense of Kabul. These provinces that have fallen will remain under Taliban control.”