On Monday, Taliban fighters captured the Afghan city of Aybak, the provincial capital of the Samangan province, the New York Times reported.
Aybak is the sixth provincial capital to fall under Taliban control in four days, amid Taliban advances throughout Afghanistan.
On Sunday, Taliban fighters captured the provincial capitals Kunduz, Sar-i-Pul and Taliqan. They also captured the provincial capitals Sheberghan and Zaranj on Friday and Saturday.
The Times of London reported, citing unnamed Department of Defense sources, that Taliban forces are advancing on three more key cities in Afghanistan, Kandahar, Herat, and Lashkar Gah. The U.S. has reportedly deployed B-52 Stratofortress bombers and AC-130 Spectre gunships to Afghanistan in a bid to halt the Taliban advances.
The B-52s are flying into Afghanistan from an airbase in Qatar and are hitting targets around Kandahar, Herat, and Lashkar Gah.
According to The Times, the Defense Department sources said the U.S. intends to continue with airstrikes after Aug. 31, the date President Joe Biden set for the end of combat operations prior to the withdrawal of the last remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
While the Defense Department sources indicated continued U.S. efforts to slow the Taliban, Afghan government forces have reportedly put up little of their own resistance.
Nazir Ahamad, a cellphone seller in Aybak told the New York Times that “the Taliban entered without a gunshot.”
Raaz Mohammad Mowahid, a member of the Samangan provincial council, also said Afghan government forces offered little resistance before they retreated to a mountain to the south.
“Aybak fell to the Taliban, and all officials and security forces retreated,” a Samangan Police dispatcher who only went by the name Assadullah, told the New York Times. “Now I am hiding in the city.”
The devolving situation in Afghanistan has prompted the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to urge Americans to leave the country immediately on whatever commercial flight options that are available.
“Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul,” the Kabul embassy said in a travel advisory on Saturday.
On July 21, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said a complete Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could take place after U.S. forces leave the country. At the time, Milley said the Taliban controlled 213 of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers but none of the country’s 34 provincial capitals. At the time, Milley said the Taliban were putting pressure “on the outskirts of probably about half of [the provincial capitals], 17 of them in fact.”
“So strategic momentum appears to be with the Taliban,” Milley said.
Taliban violence entered a brief lull during the Islamic religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, from July 19 to 23. Milley said during his July 21 remarks that it’s unclear how the Taliban will continue its offensive after Eid.
“After Eid, we’re going to find out,” Milley predicted at the time. “We’re going to find out, whether the levels of violence, whether it’s going to go up, whether it’s going to stay the same.”