The Taliban has targeted numerous provincial capitals in Afghanistan after securing large swaths of land mainly in the countryside. Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have long been stalled.
Government forces managed to hold back the militants just outside Sar-e Pul for over a week. However, he Taliban eventually broke through and took control of the capital. Afghan forces have now completely withdrawn from the province. Local pro-government militia commanders also surrendered without a fight.
The six provincial capitals the Taliban have captured are: Sar-e Pul, Shibirghan, Taleqan, Kunduz, and Aybak in the north, along with Zaranj in the west. Kunduz is viewed as a strategic priority and a commercial hub, it is located near the border with Tajikistan.
They have also taken most of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Hemland province in the south. And the city of Kandahar currently remains under siege.
The blitz in Afghanistan intensified amid U.S. and NATO troops withdrawing from the country. The military offensive comes despite condemnations by the international community and warnings from the UN that a military victory and takeover by the Taliban would not be recognized.
As the Taliban rolled through provincial capitals, they issued an English language statement saying that residents, government employees, and security officials had nothing to fear from them.
The United States is urging Americans in Afghanistan to leave the country immediately, saying the ability of the U.S. embassy in Kabul to assist is "extremely limited" due to security conditions and reduced staffing.