Wednesday. 17.04.2024

Taliban militants overran the provincial capital of Afghanistan's north-eastern province of Badakhshan, local officials confirmed on Wednesday.

The insurgent group captured Badakhshan's Faizabad city around midnight (local time) after more than a week of fighting, according to provincial councillor Ahmad Jawid Mujadidi and lawmaker Abdul Wali Niazi, who represents the province in the parliament.

All high-ranking local officials and security forces stationed in the city have been able to retreat to the Warsaj district in the neighbouring Takhar province where security forces from Taluqan, the capital of Takhar had retreated three days ago, the officials added.

According to Niazi, the families of all pro-government forces have either escaped or are hiding following the collapse of the city.

With the collapse of Faizabad, a city with an estimated population of over 78,000, the Taliban now controls nine provincial capitals of the country's 34 provinces.

All of these cities have been captured within less than a week. The city of Farah in the west and Pul-e Khumeri city in northern Baghlan province were captured hours before the collapse of Faizabad city.

Badakhshan is known for its gold and lapis lazuli mines. The province also shares a border with Tajikistan, Pakistan and China.

Biden: Afghans must fight

With the withdrawal of US troops largely complete, US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday Afghanistan must now fight on its own as the Taliban advances.

"They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation," Biden said.

The Afghan government's security forces should outnumber the Taliban militarily, including in terms of the strength of their troops, he said.

"But they've got to want to fight," Biden said.

Since the start of the withdrawal of international troops in early May, the Taliban have made massive territorial gains.

Biden appealed to Afghanistan's political leadership to pull together.

"I think they're beginning to realize they've got to come together politically at the top," he said.

He promised the US would continue to provide financial and military support to Afghan security forces and said he would be briefed on the situation every day.

But he said he did not regret ordering the withdrawal of US troops.

Withdrawal almost finished

When the decision was made, there were some 2,500 US troops left in Afghanistan. The withdrawal is now 95 per cent finished and expected to be done by the end of the month.

Soldiers from other NATO countries have already left.

The US government has earmarked 3.3 billion dollars in the draft budget to support Afghan security forces next year, Biden's spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

Biden ordered the withdrawal of US troops because the original goal of invasion 20 years ago - to fight the al-Qaeda terrorist group - had long since been achieved, she said.

Taliban overruns Faizabad city, ninth provincial capital in days