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Expand chart
Data: Al Jazeera and AP; Map: Axios Visuals

The Taliban captured the cities of Ghazni and Herat on Thursday, the 10th and 11th provincial capitals to fall to the militant group in recent days, AP reports.

Why it matters: Herat is the third-largest city in Afghanistan. Ghazni is the closest provincial capital to Kabul to fall to the Taliban — putting their frontlines within 100 miles of the heart of Afgahn government. Capturing Ghazni also cuts off a key highway linking it with Afghanistan's southern provinces.

  • A newly released U.S. military assessment suggests that Kabul could come under pressure within 30 days and that the Taliban could gain control of the country within months, per AP.
  • Kabul is not directly under attack, but "the loss of Ghazni tightens the grip of a resurgent Taliban estimated to now hold some two-thirds of the nation," AP writes.

The big picture: The string of swift Taliban successes in the final weeks of the U.S. withdrawal has dented hopes that the Afghan military and allied groups will be able to hold off the insurgency, Axios' Dave Lawler reports.

  • Afghan officials have been seeking air support from the U.S. following its withdrawal, but the Pentagon has not said whether it could conduct such operations.

Go deeper: Inside the Biden administration as Afghanistan collapses

Go deeper

Oct 14, 2021 - World

Pakistan Airlines halts flights to Kabul citing "heavy-handedness" of Taliban

Passengers board a Pakistan International Airlines flight in Kabul on Sept 13. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan International Airlines on Thursday halted flights to Kabul after what it called "heavy-handedness" of Taliban authorities, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: The suspension comes after the Taliban ordered PIA to slash ticket prices, warning that the company's Afghan operations could be blocked if it refused to do so, per Reuters.

Updated Oct 16, 2021 - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

Mike Allen, author of AM
27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 ... Speaker Pelosi, 81 ...  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 ... and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.

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