Afghan officials say three more provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban, putting nine out of the country’s 34 in the insurgents’ hands amid the US withdrawal.
The officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the capitals of Badakhshan, Baghlan and Farah provinces all fell.
Humayoon Shahidzada, a lawmaker from Farah, confirmed to The Associated Press his province’s capital fell. Hujatullah Kheradmand, a lawmaker from Badakhshan, said the Taliban had seized his province. An Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak about an unacknowledged loss, said Baghlan’s capital also fell.
The insurgents earlier captured six other provincial capitals in the country in less than a week, including Kunduz in Kunduz province — one of the country’s largest cities.
After a 20-year Western military mission and billions of dollars spent training and shoring up Afghan forces, many are at odds to explain why the regular forces have collapsed, fleeing the battle sometimes by the hundreds. The fighting has fallen largely to small groups of elite forces and the Afghan air force.
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad brought a warning to the Taliban on Tuesday that any government that comes to power through force in Afghanistan won’t be recognized internationally.
Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in the country’s north to escape battles that have overwhelmed their towns and villages. Families have flowed into the capital, Kabul, living in parks and streets with little food or water.