The Taliban is gaining ground in northern Afghanistan, taking over the capital cities of two more provinces Monday. The video above shows Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby discussing the deteriorating situation in the country.
The cities of Aybak and Sar-e Pul join three other provincial capitals now fully under Taliban control. In addition, Taliban forces are fighting for control of the city of Kunduz, the capital of a province of the same name. On Sunday, they planted their flag on a traffic police booth in the city’s main square.
Kunduz’s capture would be a significant gain for the Taliban. It is one of the country’s larger cities. It was repeatedly defended by Western troops after the Taliban tried to take it over several times.
The Taliban is also waging an assassination campaign targeting senior government officials in the Afghan capital, Kabul. On Sunday, an unknown gunmen shot and killed journalist and prosecutor Toofan Omar. According to police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz, Omar was traveling from Bagram to Kabul when his car was ambushed.
“Its not clear whether it was the result of a personal dispute or he was killed for being a prosecutor or journalist,” Faramarz said.
For weeks now, the Taliban has ramped up offensive measures since the United States first announced its combat mission in Afghanistan would end by the end of August. With Taliban attacks increasing, the United States and Afghan security forces and government troops have retaliated with airstrikes.
An example of this is in Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province. The Taliban took nine of the 10 police districts in the city last week. One of the U.S. and Afghan government airstrikes damaged a health clinic and a high school in the city.
The fighting is raising growing concerns about civilian casualties. On Monday, UNICEF said it was shocked by the increasing number of child deaths. Over the past three days, at least 27 children have been killed in various provinces.
“These atrocities are also evidence of the brutal nature and scale of violence in Afghanistan which preys on already vulnerable children,” the agency said. It did not identify the side responsible for the child deaths. Meanwhile, UNICEF is raising another alarm, saying more and more children are being recruited by armed groups.