Taliban insurgents tightened their grip on captured Afghan territory on Tuesday as civilians hid in their homes, and a European Union official said the militants now control 65% of the country after a string of gains as foreign forces pull out.
Pul-e-Khumri, capital of the northern province of Baghlan, fell to the Taliban on Tuesday evening, according to residents who reported Afghan security forces retreating towards the Kelagi desert, home to a large Afghan army base.
Pul-e-Khumri became the seventh regional capital to come under the control of the Taliban in about a week, though the White House said on Tuesday the United States did not see a Taliban takeover of the entire country as inevitable.
President Ashraf Ghani called on regional strongmen to support his government, while a U.N. official said advances made in human rights in the 20 years since the hardline Islamists were ousted from power were in danger of being erased.
In the national capital Kabul, Ghani’s aides said he was seeking help from regional militias he has squabbled with for years to defend his government. He had also appealed to civilians to defend Afghanistan’s “democratic fabric”.