Taliban militants capture major Afghanistan cities, claim control over 85% of country's territory

The Taliban militants which the US has spent two decades battling are now pushing towards the provincial cities in Afghanistan, bringing their battle with the Afghan security forces ever closer to the regional capitals, CBS News reported.

Even as the Taliban recaptures swathes of territory in the wake of US withdrawal, US President insists that the American mission in Afghanistan has not failed 'yet.' However, he conceded that it is unlikely the government in Kabul can retain control over the entire country once all American troops leave by August 31.

Unverified videos posted on social media showed Taliban fighters speeding towards the centre of the Qala-i-Naw city on motorcycles. Amid the chaos, there was a jailbreak at the local prison.

The battle was the closest the Taliban has come to toppling a provincial capital since 2015, and it was part of an offensive that has seen the insurgency advance across the country at a lightning speed, the report said.

The Taliban have also captured a major border crossing between Afghanistan and Iran, according to Afghan officials. BBC video footage showed Taliban forces taking down the Afghan flag from the roof of the border customs office.

The Islam Qala crossing is one of the biggest trade gateways into Iran, generating an estimated $20m (£14m) monthly revenue for the government.

Taliban officials say they have taken control of 85% of territory in Afghanistan. Other estimates have put the amount of territory the Taliban controls at more than a third of the country's 400 districts, including an arc of land from the Iranian border in the west to the frontier with China on the other side of the country.

With the future of Afghanistan in the balance, the Taliban is keen to appear as a government-in-waiting and has begun making diplomatic overtures to neighbours including China - which a spokesman praised as a 'friend' and future ally on Friday.

The Americans earlier this week quietly departed from Bagram airfield, a sprawling base that was the centre of US operations in Afghanistan and once held tens of thousands of troops.

US President Joe Biden has defended his administration's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. "I will not send another generation of Americans to Biden said.

Some US intelligence analysts fear the Taliban could seize control of the country within six months, according to an assessment distributed to officials in June, reports BBC.

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