Over the weekend a second provincial capital has fallen to the Taliban, this time in the north of Afghanistan, just days after the southern Nimruz province which borders Iran fell reportedly with barely any resistance from US-trained Afghan national forces.
On Saturday Sheberghan, the capital of Jowzjan province, was captured at a moment the US State Department has sounded the alarm for any American citizens still remaining in the country, with just a little over a month to go until Biden's Sept.11 complete troop exit deadline. The US embassy in Kabul had urged Americans to leave the war-torn country "immediately" while noting they can't rely on government flights.
A US Embassy security alert on Saturday stated that "Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul."
At the moment southern Helmand province is also under threat of imminent fall the Taliban, who are gaining momentum also through increasing capture of military bases and equipment, including US Humvees and weaponry - which the Islamist militants have been parading of late.
The Wall Street Journal summarizes the significance of this latest provincial capital to fall to the Taliban advance as follows:
"The fall of the city of Sheberghan is particularly important because Jowzjan has long been the traditional stronghold of ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, one of the country’s main anti-Taliban leaders who served as Afghanistan’s vice president until last year."
Sheberghan also borders Turkmenistan, which means it's yet another huge blow to Kabul in terms of losing an important hub of regional trade, also at a moment the Taliban controls the vast majority of key border crossing areas.
Crucially these latest rapid Taliban gains have been made in the south and north even as Afghanistan's military with the aid of the United States has conducted large-scale airstrikes. "As attacks intensify, Afghan security forces and government troops have retaliated with increasing airstrikes, aided by the United States. This has raised growing concerns about civilian casualties across the country," NBC News writes.
This strongly suggests that even if the Pentagon were to provide full and immediate air support to Afghan forces across all theaters, it would likely do little to blunt the insurgents' offensive. It could now be a mere matter of months or even weeks before Kabul finds itself under siege.