File photo: Afghan army Special Forces take part in a military exercise in Rishkhur district outside Kabul. Photograph:( Reuters )
A Taliban official said on Friday that the terrorist group is in control of 85 per cent of the country. However, this claim is contested by Afghan government and cannot be independently verified
Afghan authorities on Saturday prepared to try and retake key border crossing seized by the Taliban. The Taliban has been on the offensive across Afghanistan and have large swathes of territory under their control. A Taliban official said on Friday that the terrorist group is in control of 85 per cent of the country. However, this claim is contested by Afghan government and cannot be independently verified.
Amid withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban said that it had seized two crossings in western Afghanistan. This completes an arc of territory from Iranian border to the frontier with China.
Meanwhile, China has urged its citizens to leave Afghanistan "as soon as possible". China has criticised US for its hasty withdrawal.
The "complex and severe domestic security situation" prompted the evacuation warning, the foreign ministry said.
On Friday Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP their fighters had captured the town of Islam Qala on the Iranian frontier and the Torghundi crossing with Turkmenistan.
A Herat governor spokesman said on Saturday that the authorities were deploying fresh troops to retake the Islam Qala post. It is the biggest trade crossing between Iran and Afghanistan.
"They will be sent there soon," he told AFP.
The Afghan government has repeatedly dismissed the Taliban's gains as having little strategic value, but the seizure of multiple border crossings and the taxes they generate will likely fill the group's coffers with new revenue.
With the Taliban having routed much of northern Afghanistan in recent weeks, the government holds little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that must largely be reinforced and resupplied by air.
The air force was under severe strain even before the Taliban's lightning offensive overwhelmed the government's northern and western positions, putting further pressure on the country's limited aircraft and pilots.
On Thursday President Joe Biden said the US military mission would end on August 31 -- nearly 20 years after it began -- but he admitted it was "highly unlikely" Kabul would be able to control the entire country.
"The status quo is not an option," Biden said of staying in the country. "I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan."
Biden said the Afghan people alone should determine their future, but he acknowledged the uncertainty about what that would look like.
Asked if a Taliban takeover was inevitable, the president said: "No, it is not."
(With inputs from agencies)