Taliban forces continued their offensive toward total control of Afghanistan by reportedly capturing several provincial capitals in a four-day span.
The terrorist organization claimed it took the provincial capitals of Kunduz, Sheberghan in Jawzjan province, and Sar-e-Pul on Sunday.
On Monday, the Taliban claimed to capture two more capital cities, Taloqan in Takhar province and Aibak in Samangan. The Taliban claimed to have captured the provincial capital of Zaranj in Nimroz province on Friday.
"The strategically vital capital cities of Herat and Kandahar are still under heavy Taliban pressure and could be among the next to fall," Breitbart's John Hayward reported on Monday.
White House officials said on Sunday that Joe Biden has been briefed on the Taliban’s advances, but has not changed his plans to withdraw U.S. troops.
The capture of Kunduz, with a population of about 270,000, was seen as a strategic coup for the Taliban.
"If it can retain control of the city, the Taliban will have effective control of Afghanistan’s northern mineral resources and vital trade routes to Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan," Hayward noted.
Analysts noted that capturing Sheberghan, Kunduz, and Taloqan gives the Taliban a clear shot at taking Mazi-i-Sharif, the largest city in northern Afghanistan.
Khaama Press reported massive attacks on Sunday morning, causing residents to flee from “horrific fires.” The Taliban blamed airstrikes from the Afghan Air Force for setting the fires.
Though elite commando troops sent to Kunduz by Afghan Defense Ministry recaptured some areas of the city, by Sunday afternoon the Taliban claimed to be in control of police headquarters, the main jail, and the headquarters of the national security directorate. Taliban jihadists released prisoners in the jail.
“Heavy clashes started yesterday afternoon. All government headquarters are in control of the Taliban, only the army base and the airport is with ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] from where they are resisting the Taliban,” provincial lawmaker Amruddina Wali said Sunday. The Taliban on Monday predicted its forces would soon capture the airport.
In Sar-e-Pul, The Taliban reportedly captured the governor’s compound, police headquarters, and security directorate offices on Sunday, driving Afghan government forces back to the local military base. Local residents said isolated regiments of government troops still held only two districts of the city.
Sar-e-Pul officials claimed the central government neglected their defense, perhaps deliberately, as quoted by Tolo News on Monday: “The central and local governments have paid no attention. The security forces did not even have food while they were under siege,” said Yar Mohammad Maihanparast, the head of the Sar-e-Pul residents’ council in Kabul.
Some lawmakers from Sar-e-Pul said the government’s inattention led to the fall of the city and the loss of dozens of large pieces of military equipment to the Taliban.
“The inefficient officials in Sar-e-Pul made the situation worse and provided the grounds for collapse. I believe that Sar-e-Pul collapsed due to a deal,” said Sayed Hayatullah Alemi, an MP from Sar-e-Pul.
Sheberghan fell after a week of sustained fighting. The Taliban silenced over a dozen television, radio, and Internet media networks operating out of the city. As of Monday, local sources said only the airport near the city was still under government control.
Afghan government officials disputed some of the Taliban’s claimed conquests, dismissing them as “propaganda” intended to “create anxiety for the civilian population.”