The Taliban seized three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan and a local army headquarters in a blitz across the country's northeast, officials said Wednesday, with the insurgents now controlling some two-thirds of the nation as the US and NATO finalize their withdrawal after its decades-long war there. The fall of Fayzabad, Puli-Khumri, and Farah—the capitals of the Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces to the northeast and the Farah province to the west, respectively—puts increasing pressure on the country's central government to stem the tide of the advance, even as it has lost a major base in Kunduz, per the AP. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rushed to the Balkh province, already surrounded by Taliban-held territory, to seek help pushing back the insurgents from warlords linked to allegations of atrocities and corruption.
The insurgents earlier captured six other provincial capitals in the country in less than a week, including Kunduz in Kunduz province—a significant gain and one of the country's largest cities. Most of northeast Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban, except for Balkh province. While Kabul itself has not been directly threatened in the advance, its stunning speed raises questions of how long the Afghan government can maintain control of its countryside. The multiple fronts of the battle have stretched the government's special operations forces—while regular troops have often fled the battlefield—and the violence has pushed thousands of civilians to seek safety in the capital. The US military, which plans to complete its withdrawal by the end of the month, has conducted some airstrikes but largely has avoided involving itself in the ground campaign. The Afghan government and military didn't respond to repeated requests for comment about the losses.
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