The Taliban claim to have seized 17 provincial capitals across Afghanistan, including Kandahar and Herat, the country’s second- and third-largest cities, as the group continues its sweep through the country. The Taliban now have almost full control of the south, west and north of Afghanistan and are advancing on the capital Kabul, where the United States is preparing to evacuate its embassy in case of a Taliban defeat of the Afghan government. The sudden and dramatic Taliban gains come as the U.S. withdraws its ground troops from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war, with aid groups warning of a humanitarian crisis unfolding. Since January, nearly 400,000 have been displaced. Over 1,000 civilians have been killed or injured in fighting over the past month. “The Taliban is making very bold moves in their attempt for a military takeover,” says Afghan journalist Lotfullah Najafizada, director of TOLOnews. He warns that a Taliban victory would threaten the tenuous gains for civil society and press freedoms over the past 20 years, saying there needs to be international pressure for a political solution to the fighting. “The cloud of uncertainty is over Afghanistan,” says Najafizada.
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