On Thursday Taliban took the 10th Afghan provincial capital in a week and just 150 kilometres from Kabul.
The Taliban captured a police headquarters on Thursday in a provincial capital in southern Afghanistan as surrounded government forces hoped to hold onto the capital after the militants' weeklong blitz has seen them already seize nine others around the country.
The Taliban have taken Ghazni city, a senior local lawmaker told the local media reporters on Thursday, the 10th Afghan provincial capital to fall in a week and just 150 kilometres (95 miles) from Kabul.
Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of the provincial council said, "The Taliban took control of the key areas of the city -- the governor's office, the police headquarters and the prison."
Fighting raged on in Lashkar Gah, one of Afghanistan's largest cities in the Taliban heartland of Helmand province, teetering toward being lost to the insurgents as suspected US airstrikes pounded the area, an official said.
Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani arrives in Mazar-i-Sharif to check the security situation on Wednesday. Reuters
Afghan security forces and the government have not responded to repeated requests for comment over the days of fighting. However, President Ashraf Ghani is trying to rally a counteroffensive relying on his country's special forces, the militias of warlords and American airpower ahead of the US and Nato withdrawal at the end of the month.
Earlier, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani flew to the besieged northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Wednesday to rally his beleaguered forces, with Taliban fighters having now taken more than a quarter of the country's provincial capitals in less than a week.
Ghani arrived in Mazar as the Taliban captured Faizabad overnight, making it the ninth city to be overrun since Friday.
A still image shows what appear to be militants on a pickup truck with a gun in Afghanistan. Reuters
He plans "to check the general security in the northern zone", according to a statement released by the palace.
Afghans receive medical care after being injured in fighting between the Taliban and forces in Mazar-e-Sharif. AP
The loss of Mazar would be a catastrophic blow to the Kabul government and represent the complete collapse of its control over the north – long a bastion of anti-Taliban militias.
Meanwhile, the militants pressed on with their offensive that US intelligence believes could see them take over the capital, Kabul, within 90 days.
The speed of the Taliban advance — they have captured 10 provincial capitals in less than a week and are threatening to take at least three more — has sparked widespread recriminations of US President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw US troops and leave the Afghan government to fight alone.
The Taliban control about two-thirds of Afghanistan, with the last of the US-led international forces set to leave by the end of the month, and their guerrilla army has waged war on multiple fronts, resulting in thousands of families fleeing the provinces in hope of finding safety in the capital, Kabul.
Government officials have appealed for pressure on Pakistan to stop Taliban reinforcements and supplies flowing over the border. Pakistan denies backing the Taliban.
The government has withdrawn from hard-to-defend rural districts to focus on holding population centres. In some places, government forces have given up without a fight.
In Geneva on Tuesday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said reports of violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity were emerging, including "deeply disturbing reports" of the summary execution of surrendering government troops.
Internally displaced families from northern provinces take shelter in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan. Reuters
Six EU member states warned the bloc's executive against halting deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers arriving in Europe, fearing a possible replay of a 2015-16 crisis over the arrival of more than a million migrants, mainly from the Middle East.
A provincial council member from Badakhshan told the local media reporters that after the Taliban capture of Faizabad — the capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan — after a long battle, government forces retreated to a neighbouring district, Jawad Mujadidi.
Afghan defence minister Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid's comments came less than a month after US President Joe Biden announced the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul.
The government has decided to free top militant commander Anas Haqqani and two other Taliban commanders in a prisoner swap, a deal that could pave the way for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Afghanistan was not the only country sending a message: North Korea had one for the United States, saying it was up to Washington whether now-stalled nuclear negotiations "become a window of opportunity or an occasion that will hasten the crisis."
"These four mission concept studies were selected because they address compelling science questions and could greatly impact the field of heliophysics,” said Nicky Fox, the associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Some 8.65 inches (21.97 centimetres) of rain had fallen at John F. Kennedy Airport by nightfall Friday, surpassing the record for any September day set during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.
On leaving Tirana, Sheikh Khaled expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the warm reception and hospitality, which reflect the deep ties between the UAE and Albania.