US President Joe Biden says he does not regret the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as the Taliban continues to advance.
Biden called on Afghan leaders to unite and “fight for their country”.
Violence has escalated across the country after a 20-year military campaign in which almost all US-led forces have been withdrawn.
The Taliban have captured at least eight of the country’s 34 provincial capitals and threaten many more.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Biden said the US was honoring its commitments to Afghanistan, such as providing air support, paying military salaries and delivering food and equipment to Afghan troops.
But, he said, “they have to fight for themselves”.
The Washington Post quoted officials, who asked not to be named, as saying that the US military estimates that the capital Kabul could fall to the Taliban within 90 days.
According to the United Nations, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in fierce fighting between the Taliban and government forces in the past month. The UN children’s agency Unicef warned this week that atrocities against children were “increasing daily”.
The Taliban captured two more provincial capitals on Tuesday: the town of Farah and Pul-e-Humri.
Officials said the insurgents raised their flags in the main square and the governor’s office in Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, which is about 200 kilometres from Kabul.
A local journalist and member of the provincial council told that the western town of Farah had also fallen.
Other Taliban successes this week include the key northern city of Kunduz. It is seen as the gateway to the province, which is rich in natural resources, and is strategically located near the border with Tajikistan, where it is used for smuggling opium and heroin.
Heavy fighting continues in other parts of the country and there have been airstrikes by American and Afghan aircraft.
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“We saw dead bodies lying near the prison,” a woman who left Kunduz when the Taliban took control of the city told AFP… “There were dogs with them. There were dogs next to them.
Residents still in the city reported that shops had reopened as Taliban fighters turned their attention to government troops retreating to the airport.
“People are opening their shops and businesses, but you can still see the fear in their eyes,” one of them said.
The Taliban have rejected the international community’s call for a ceasefire.
British Chief of Staff Sir Nick Carter said a partition of the country would provide “ideal conditions” for international terrorism and violent extremism.