Taliban captures Logar province, 50km south of Afghanistan capital Kabul
- Taliban have also launched a multi-pronged assault on Mazar-e-Sharif, a major city in the north
- The Taliban have captured much of northern, southern and western Afghanistan
- The offensive comes just three weeks before the US is set to withdraw its last troops from the country
The Taliban on Saturday captured the province Logar, which is just south of Afghanistan's capital Kabul. Seizing Logar has put the Taliban just 80 kilometres from Kabul. The insurgents have also launched a multi-pronged assault on a major city in the north, Mazar-e-Sharif.
A lawmaker from Logar, Homa Ahmadi, told AP that the Taliban have taken control of the entire province, including its capital.
In the last two weeks, the Taliban have also captured much of northern, southern and western Afghanistan. The offensive comes just three weeks before the United States is set to withdraw its last troops from the country.
Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesperson for the provincial governor in northern Balkh province, meanwhile said the Taliban attacked the city of Mazar-e-Sharif from several directions, setting off heavy fighting on its outskirts. There was no immediate word on casualties.
On Wednesday, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani visited Mazar-e-Sharif and rallied the city's defences. He also met with commanders of several militias that are allied with the Afghanistan government.
The Taliban captured much of southern Afghanistan in recent days in a rapid offensive that has raised fears of a full takeover. Their lightning advance has left the Western-backed government in control of a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
The withdrawal of foreign forces and the swift retreat of Afghanistan's own troops — despite hundreds of billions of dollars in US aid over the years — has raised fears the Taliban could return to power or the country could be plunged into civil war.
The first Marines from a contingent of 3,000 arrived on Friday to help partially evacuate the US Embassy. The rest are set to arrive by Sunday, and their deployment has raised questions about whether the administration will meet its Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
(With AP inputs)