The Taliban captured three more major cities in Afghanistan, expanding their control in the country after the US military withdrew most of its troops, The New York Times reports.
The Taliban on Friday seized Kandahar and two other key cities, meaning that only the capital of Kabul and two other major cities remain under government control, one of which is under siege.
The Afghanistan security forces have collapsed as the Taliban has captured city after city since most troops withdrew.
Some American officials expect the government to collapse within 30 days.
The Taliban now controls more than half of the country’s districts including more than a dozen provincial capitals.
Afghan forces have partnered with militias and local warlords in an effort to hold off the insurgents but even US air strikes have failed to bat back the militants.
US evacuates personnel:
The Pentagon has moved thousands of remaining Marines for a possible evacuation of the American Embassy and American citizens in Kabul.
American officials have tried to negotiate with the Taliban to get assurances that the embassy would not be attacked if they win control of Kabul.
The State Department is preparing to evacuate the Kabul embassy and has ordered staff to destroy sensitive documents and computers before they depart.
Many staffers are being told to leave by the end of the month.
Biden under fire:
President Joe Biden has drawn criticism for moving forward with the withdrawal plan that began under former President Donald Trump.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Biden’s decision to withdraw “reckless” and demanded he send more troops to the country.
“Here’s what should happen now. President Biden should immediately commit to providing more support to Afghan forces, starting with close air support beyond August 31st. Without it, al Qaeda and the Taliban may celebrate the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks by burning down our Embassy in Kabul,” McConnell said. “Unless President Biden adjusts course quickly, the Taliban is on track to secure a significant military victory.”