Fighting in Afghanistan's long-running conflict has escalated dramatically since May, when the US-led military coalition began the final stage of a withdrawal set to be completed before the end of the month.
The Taliban has seized two more Afghan provincial capitals – including one just 200 kilometres from Kabul - taking the number of major cities to have fallen to the insurgents during the past one week to eight.
Farah city, capital of the same-named province, and Pul-e-Khumri in Baghlan fell within hours of each other, officials in both centres said on Tuesday.
"The Taliban are now in the city," Baghlan MP Mamoor Ahmadzai told AFP. "They have raised their flag in the main square and on governor's office building."
The Taliban had earlier during the day claimed their seizure in separate tweets.
"This afternoon the Taliban entered the city of Farah after briefly fighting with the security forces. They have captured the governor's office and police headquarters," Shahla Abubar, a member of Farah's provincial council said on Tuesday.
Taliban kill innocent people; while Afghan National Army put their lives at risk and protect Afghans.— Fawad Aman (@FawadAman2) August 10, 2021
Picture of a soldier rescuing an old man from the battlefield in Balkh province today. pic.twitter.com/kd77dpaD4A
Taliban forces now control 65 percent of Afghan territory, are threatening to take 11 provincial capitals and are trying to deprive Kabul of its traditional support from national forces in the north, a senior EU official said on Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes for the relative safety of Kabul and other centres as the Taliban launched their blitz last Friday targeting the capitals cities of several provinces.
Six of the other provincial capitals to have fallen since Friday are in the country's north with the insurgents setting their sights on Mazar-i-Sharif, the region's biggest city.
Its fall would signal the total collapse of government control in the traditionally anti-Taliban north.
Government forces are also battling the militants in Kandahar and Helmand, the southern Pashto-speaking provinces from where the Taliban draw their strength.
The United States, due to complete a troop withdrawal at the end of this month that will end its longest war, has largely left the fighting to the Afghans.
War-weary IDPs call for help
As fighting raged, thousands of people were on the move inside the country, with families fleeing newly captured Taliban cities with tales of brutal treatment at the hands of the insurgents.
The UN's International Organization for Migration said Tuesday that more than 359,000 people have been displaced by fighting this year alone.
Many of the war-weary Afghans displaced by the latest wave of violence staged a protest demonstration in the capital Kabul against the raging bloodshed.
One of such internally displaced persons (IDPs), Abdul Hakeem from Kunduz province, told Anadolu Agency that the international community, particularly the Muslim world, must intervene for peace in Afghanistan.
“Muslims of the world should not remain silent, and act to bring relief to the so many civilians trapped in towns and villages due to the war between the government forces and the Taliban.”
In the northern city of Kunduz that was captured by the Taliban over the weekend, residents said shops had begun to reopen in the centre as the insurgents focused their attention on government forces who had retreated to the airport.
"People are opening their shops and businesses, but you can still see fear in their eyes," said shopkeeper Habibullah.