Taliban Gain Control of All But Two Major Cities in Afghanistan as U.S. Hurries Withdrawal

The Taliban has seized all but two major cities in Afghanistan as the U.S. nears its complete withdrawal from the nation. The Afghan government currently has control over just the capital Kabul and, in the east, Jalalabad.

On Saturday, Afghan lawmaker Abas Ebrahimzada said that the Taliban gained control of Mazar-e-Sharif in the Balkh province, the nation's fourth-largest city, after the national army and pro-government militias surrendered, the Associated Press reported.

The deputy commander of Mazar special operations unit, Mohammad Anwar Mohammadi, said on Saturday in an audio message that military units are at the border with Uzbekistan waiting for permission to enter, CNN reported.

Mazar-e-Sharif, #Afghanistan’s fourth largest city and economic hub of the north, has fallen to the Taliban.

Another devastating loss to the government in #Kabul.

Govt forces now only control two major cities — Kabul and Jalalabad in the east. That is likely next target.

— Frud Bezhan فرود بيژن (@FrudBezhan) August 14, 2021

Ebrahimzada said that former warlords Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad Noor, who reportedly lead thousands of fighters, have escaped the province, with no information about their current locations, according to the AP.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday rallied security forces and defenses in Mazar-e-Sharif, where he met with Dostum and Noor and other militia commanders in an effort to fight back the Taliban.

The Taliban have now captured around 23 out of the 34 Afghan provinces, according to the AP. But the capital Kabul and some provinces in the center and the east are still out of its control.

The insurgents also took over on Saturday all of Logar province, which is located south of Kabul, according to Hoda Ahmadi, an Afghan lawmaker residing in the province, the AP reported. The insurgents also seized the capital of Laghman province, Mihterlam.

Some units from the U.S. Marines arrived in Kabul on Saturday, according to the AP, adding to ones who landed Friday. They are part of the 3,000-troop force assigned to secure the exit of the U.S. Embassy personnel and Afghan allies.

The airlift mission is expected to conclude by month's end, according to officials cited by the AP, but it might take longer depending on the Taliban's progress.

Some officials, including ones in the U.S. military, have been surprised by how fast the Taliban has taken over most of Afghanistan.

"We're certainly concerned by the speed with which the Taliban has been moving," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday afternoon. "It's deeply concerning."

On Fox News on Saturday, Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, who served on the ground in Afghanistan, criticized how Biden is withdrawing from the country, saying it "created an abandonment feeling for the people in Afghanistan."

Same leadership, same failure. We should have had a conditions based withdrawal from Afghanistan not one based on the clock. Joined @FoxNews @GriffJenkins: pic.twitter.com/3dnZxtVT1s

— Rep. Mark Green (@RepMarkGreen) August 14, 2021

"We didn't even tell the Afghans we were leaving Bagram air force base. They just walked in and said the Americans are gone," Green said. "And that kind of disrespect clearly makes them think [that] the Americans don't have our back."

Green also noted that the way this withdrawal is implemented "could potentially be an intelligence failure that we need to dig into" as the Taliban "synchronize" attacks across the country.

Newsweek reached out to the White House press office for comments but didn't hear back by the time of publication.

On Friday Adela Raz, Afghanistan's ambassador and envoy to the U.S. said that the Taliban is pressuring Ghani to resign.

"It's an ask the Taliban has been saying from the first day," she told PBS NewsHour on Friday.

Taliban seize all major cities except two
The Taliban have seized all major cities in Afghanistan except for the capital Kabul and Jalalabad as of Saturday. Above, Taliban fighters patrol the streets in Herat on August 14. Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images