Updated Aug 15, 2021 - World

Mapped: The Taliban's lightning offensive to take over Afghanistan

Afghan provincial capitals captured by the Taliban in August 2021
Data: Al Jazeera; Map: Axios Visuals

The Taliban has captured more than half of Afghanistan's provincial capitals over the past week, with the insurgents showing no signs of slowing their lightning offensive as they threaten to isolate Kabul and topple the Afghan government.

The latest: The militant group seized the key eastern city of Jalalabad early on Sunday, officials said, per AP and Reuters. Officials told the outlets they negotiated the capital of Nangarhar province's fall without violence.

  • Kabul, some 93 miles west of Jalalabad, is now the only major city still under the control of the Afghan government.

The big picture: The central province of Daykundi, the eastern province of Kunar and the capital of Laghman province, northeast of Kabul, all surrendered to the Taliban on Saturday, AP notes.

  • Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, the second-largest province in the country, also fell to the Taliban earlier on Saturday, per AP. Afghan lawmaker Abas Ebrahimzada said the national army surrendered, prompting the pro-government militias and other forces to retreat.
  • The Taliban also on Saturday swept through the capitals of Paktika (Sharana) and Logar (Pul-e Alam), the latter of which is just miles south of Kabul.

The group captured the provinces of Ghor (Chaghcharan) and Helmand (Lashkar Gah) on Friday, the latter of which was at the center of operations by U.S., British and NATO troops over the last 20 years.

  • The militants also captured the capitals of Uruzgan province (Tirin Kot) and Zabul (Qalat) in the south early Friday.
  • On Thursday, the Taliban took the second- and third-largest cities in Afghanistan — Kandahar and Herat, respectively — as well as Ghazni, which is less than 100 miles from Kabul. Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban movement, delivering the insurgents a massive symbolic victory.
  • The U.S. announced Thursday it will shrink down to a "core diplomatic presence" in Kabul due to the deteriorating security situation, and will send 3,000 troops to the city's international airport to assist in an evacuation effort.

Go deeper: Behind the scenes of the Biden administration as the U.S. ditches Kabul

This story and map will be updated if more capitals are captured.

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