Taliban takes control of more than 50 districts in Afghanistan, UN sounds alarm

The Taliban has taken more than 50 of the 370 districts in Afghanistan since May this year, UN special envoy Deborah Lyons told the Security Council, warning of “dire scenarios” ahead of the foreign troop withdrawal.

The US and NATO troops have set 11 September as the final date for withdrawal, though Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the situation remained “dynamic” and, although the Taliban gains had not changed the withdrawal, there was still the flexibility to alter its “pace and scope”.

Taliban’s recent advances were the result of an “intensified military campaign”, she told the the 15-member UN Security Council in New York. ‘Increased conflict means increased insecurity for many other countries near and far.’

“Those districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn.”

The Taliban also captured Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan on Tuesday, officials said. The crossing stands in the northern province of Kunduz, where fighting has escalated in recent days.

Taliban fighters say they have control of the whole province, with only the provincial capital, Kunduz retained by the government. But the defence ministry in Kabul said Afghan forces had recaptured some districts and operations were ongoing.

Kunduz city is strategically significant, and briefly fell to the insurgents in 2015 and again a year later, before being retaken both times by Nato-backed government forces.

Local media reported that Taliban seized large amounts of weapons and ammunition.

Afghan security forces said they would launch a massive offensive shortly to reclaim lost territory.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says government forces are fully capable of keeping insurgents at bay, but many believe the withdrawal could cast Afghanistan back into the grip of the Taliban.