Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a televised speech on Saturday, his first public appearance since the recent Taliban gains, in which he vowed not to give up the "achievements" of the 20 years since the US toppled the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks. "We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community, as well as our international allies," he said. "Soon the results will be shared with you," he added, without elaborating further, per the AP. The president had flown to Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday to rally the city's defenses, meeting with several militia commanders, including Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammad Noor, who command thousands of fighters. They remain allied with the government, but during previous rounds of fighting in Afghanistan, warlords have been known to switch sides for their own survival.
The Taliban have made major advances in recent days, including capturing Herat and Kandahar, the country's second- and third-largest cities. The insurgents have captured much of northern, western, and southern Afghanistan in a breakneck offensive less than three weeks before the US is set to withdraw its last troops, raising fears of a full militant takeover or another Afghan civil war. The insurgents now control 18 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, leaving the Western-backed government in control of a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as the capital of Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. However, Hoda Ahmadi, a lawmaker from the province of Logar, said Saturday that the Taliban have reached the Char Asyab district, just 7 miles south of Kabul. The Taliban also attacked the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif from several directions, setting off heavy fighting on its outskirts, per a rep for the provincial governor.
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