The Taliban captured two more Afghanistan provinces Saturday, approaching the country’s capital just as the U.S. continues its withdrawal.
Local officials told the Associated Press the group also launched attacks against Mazar-e-Sharif, a northern city, with the province’s defenses locked in heavy battle. With Saturday’s captures, the insurgent group now controls a majority of the country’s 34 provinces, including its second- and third-largest cities. It comes as the first cadre of 3,000 U.S. troops arrived in the city Friday, with the rest set to arrive Sunday, though all of them are set to be gone by Aug. 31.
The country is locked in peace talks with the Taliban, aided by the U.S., in Qatar, though Taliban officials have offered little room for negotiation, per the outlet. President Ashraf Ghani said in a speech he would not let the group destroy the “achievements” made by the U.S.-backed Afghan army over 20 years. “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,” Ghani said. “Soon the results will be shared with you.”