Less than a week ago, the Taliban seized their first provincial capital since the withdrawal of US troops began. On Thursday, they seized their tenth, raising their flag in the city of Ghazni, just 80 miles southwest of Kabul, the AP reports. Another three of the country's 34 capitals fell on Wednesday. The Washington Post, citing officials speaking under the condition of anonymity, reports that the Pentagon now believes Kabul could fall to the Islamic militants within 30 to 90 days. In June they predicted it could happen six months after the US withdrawal. "Everything is moving in the wrong direction," one official says. President Biden said this week that he does not plan to change the US withdrawal plan and "Afghan leaders have to come together."
Ghazni is on the main highway that leads south from Kabul to Kandahar, the country's second-largest city. Provincial council member Amanullah Kamrani tells the AP that the province's governor and police chief made a deal with the Taliban that allowed them to flee unharmed after their surrender. Kandahar itself is under pressure from the Taliban and its fall would be a devastating blow to the Afghan government. The Guardian reports that fighters seized the city's Sarposa prison Wednesday, releasing almost 1,000 prisoners. Afghan government sources tell Al Jazeera that the government has now offered the Taliban a share in power in return for an end to the offensive. Pentagon officials have declined to say whether US air support for Afghan forces will end as planned on Aug. 31. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)