The Taliban are rapidly approaching the biggest city in northern Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif, following a recent offensive that has seen them take a series of urban centres in the north of the country.
Taliban fighters swept into the city of Aibak without meeting any resistance over the weekend. The city is a key route for the supply of goods to northern Afghanistan and its capture leaves pro-government forces in the region increasingly cut off.
On Sunday the group claimed a huge symbolic victory when its fighters seized Kunduz, a strategic city close to the border with Tajikistan and an important political and military hub. It has also claimed Sheberghan, the capital of the northern Jawzjan province, and neighbouring Taloqan.
The group’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said its fighters had now entered Mazar-i-Sharif, the most populous city in the north. Its fall would deal a devastating and possibly terminal blow to the government in Kabul.
Afghan government forces have meanwhile tried to push back the Taliban’s advance, alleging to have killed more than 500 members of the group.
The battle between the Taliban and Afghan forces has intensified as foreign troops are scheduled to withdraw from the war-torn country by August 31.