Updated Aug 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Taliban steps up offensive after seizing key Afghan city Kunduz

Afghan soldiers in a village, holding rifles and dressed in military gear

Afghan special force members attend a military operation against the Taliban fighters in Kandak Anayat village of Kunduz city, Afghanistan, July 23. Photo: Ajmal Kakar/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Taliban continued its offensive in Afghanistan Monday, a day after taking control of the key strategic northern city of Kunduz.

Why it matters: The Taliban's escalating success poses a looming problem for the U.S., which is due to completely withdraw military forces from Afghanistan on Aug. 31.

  • The country has seen large, rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and a sharp increase in violence since the group's territorial offensive began earlier this summer.

Driving the news: Kunduz was one of three northern provincial capitals captured by the the Taliban on Sunday alone. The group also captured the cities of Taliqan, in the province of Takhar, and Sar-i-Pul, of the province with the same name, the New York Times notes.

  • "Heavy fighting has also been reported in Herat in the west, and in the southern cities of Kandahar and Lashkar Gah," according to the BBC.
  • Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense said it had killed dozens of Taliban fighters during overnight clashes in several cities.

The big picture: The capture of Sar-i-Pul in northern Afghanistan came after several days of heavy fighting, per the NYT.

  • On Friday, the Taliban captured the city of Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province.
  • On Saturday, the Taliban seized Sheberghan, the provincial capital of Jawzjan, near the Turkmenistan border, CNN reports.
  • The fall of Kunuz is significant both because the city is strategically located near the border with Tajikistan and is an important political and military hub, but it was also the site of the Taliban's surrender in 2001, according to the Guardian.

State of play: The U.S. intelligence community has warned that the Afghan government could collapse as soon as next year as the Taliban's battlefield offensive grows.

  • The marked uptick in violence since the United States began its withdrawal has seen thousands of Afghans fleeing to neighboring countries.
  • Afghans who assisted American troops as interpreters, contractors or in other ally roles are being given visas to come to the U.S.

Go deeper: Biden defends Afghanistan exit as fears of collapse grow.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details comment from Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense and to reflect that the Taliban is continuing its offensive.

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