The Taliban have captured the city of Ghazni on Thursday, the tenth provincial capital they have seized in a week. Kabul is just 150km north east.
The speed of the Taliban advance has sparked widespread recriminations over U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops and leave the Afghan government to fight alone.
The Taliban control about two-thirds of Afghanistan, with the last of the U.S.-led international forces set to leave by the end of the month, and their guerrilla army has waged war on multiple fronts, resulting in thousands of families fleeing the provinces in hope of finding safety in Kabul and other cities.
A senior security official said the Taliban had captured Ghazni, which is on the highway between Kabul and the second city of Kandahar, and had occupied all of its government agency headquarters after heavy clashes.
“All local government officials, including the provincial governor, have been evacuated towards Kabul,” Reuters reported quoting an unnamed official.
Fighting has also been intense in the southern city of Kandahar. The city hospital had received scores of bodies of members of the armed forces and some wounded Taliban.
The Taliban said they had captured Kandahar’s provincial prison.
The Taliban also said they had seized airports outside the cities of Kunduz and Sheberghan in the north and Farah in the west, making it even more difficult to supply beleaguered government forces.
The Taliban said they had also captured the provincial headquarters in Lashkar Gah, the embattled capital of the southern province of Helmand, a hotbed of militant activity.
Fighting had also flared in the northwestern province of Badghis, its governor said.
Bordering Pakistan, Kandahar and other southern and eastern provinces have long been Taliban heartlands but it has been in the north where they have made their biggest gains in recent weeks.