Insurgents’ seemingly unstoppable advance now pushing into area 50 miles from Kabul

The Taliban’s inexorable progress across Afghanistan resumed on Friday, Aug. 13,  as the rebels gained control of four more provincial capitals after seizing the country’s second and third largest towns, Kandahar and Herat, on Thursday, Aug. 12.

The Taliban are marching steadily towards Kabul, with Afghan government forces in disarray and rumors that the country’s vice-president has left. They now control more than two-thirds of the country, just as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its final soldiers.

According to the most recent U.S. military intelligence assessment, Kabul could be under militant attack within 30 days. It claims that if current trends continue, the Taliban will be in complete control of the country in a matter of months. The Guardian reported.

The situation on the ground is constantly shifting. The Taliban have smoothly secured a position in the south, the group’s traditional ethnic Pashtun bastion, following a ruthless attack in the north that saw Herat fall.

The gang claims to have taken control of Kandahar and is controlling the city. After weeks of severe battle, Attaullah Afghan, the leader of the Helmand provincial council, announced the rebels had also taken the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Their white flag was flown over government buildings.

The provincial chief of Zabul province, Atta Jan Haqbayan, stated the local capital of Qalat had also collapsed. In addition, Tarin Kot in southern Uruzgan and Firuz Koh in central Ghor province also surrendered, continuing a pattern of capitulation observed across the country since the Taliban’s lightning march began eight days ago.

They had moved into Logar province’s capital, 50 miles south of Kabul, by Friday afternoon. Hasibullah Stanikzai, the head of the Logar provincial council, said the battle was taking place within Puli-e Alim, with government forces seizing the police headquarters and other security installations.

According to the Associated Press, as he spoke on the phone from his office, gunfire could be heard in the background. The Taliban claimed to have taken control of the police headquarters as well as a nearby prison.

Two decades after the U.S. and UK forced the Taliban out of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks; the group is on the brink of flipping the country back to the hardline Islamist rule when it was last in power at the turn of the millennium, causing thousands to flee their homes.

At the time, the group had almost wholly eradicated women’s rights and was carrying out public executions while imposing a harsh form of Islamic law.

The U.S. and UK are racing to get the majority of their citizens out of Kabul.

The Biden administration announced the deployment of 3,000 troops to assist in evacuating employees from the U.S. embassy. The UK announced that 600 troops would be deployed temporarily to assist British citizens fleeing the country. Germany has reduced its embassy staff to an “absolute minimum,” and Canada sends special forces. The embassies of Denmark and Norway have been closed, Fox News reported.

Senior government officials appear to be leaving as well. According to reports, Afghanistan’s first vice president, Amrullah Saleh, has escaped to Tajikistan. In addition, Ismail Khan, a renowned anti-Taliban warlord, surrendered to militants in Herat, claiming to have joined them.

Qatar’s peace talks have deadlocked, despite diplomats convening, while the U.S., Europe, and Asia warned that any government imposed by force would be rejected.

For the United States, after spending $830 billion over almost two decades trying to construct a functioning state in Afghanistan, the onslaught symbolizes a startling breakdown of Afghan forces. U.S. forces deposed the Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks, which Al Qaeda planned and carried out while being sheltered by the Taliban administration.

Biden announced the end of U.S. military involvement in the war in April, and the pullout is expected to be completed by Aug. 31.