Afghanistan war: which Afghan territories have the Taliban captured - and will they seize Kabul?

Afghanistan is on the brink of a full Taliban takeover as militants close in on Kabul - the only major city still in government control

A Taliban flag is seen on a plinth with people gathered around the main city square at Pul-e-Khumri on August 11 after the Taliban captured Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province about 200 kms north of Kabul. (AFP/Getty)

The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has fled the country as Taliban forces advanced into the capital, Kabul.

Two officials told the Associated Press that Ghani left on Sunday. Ghani left along with his National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, and a second close associate - although it’s not clear where they went.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Meanwhile, the Taliban said it would further enter Kabul on Sunday night after spending hours on the city’s outskirts.

In a nationwide offensive that has taken just over a week, the Taliban have defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swathes of the country, even with some air support by the US military.

Thousands of civilians now live in parks and open spaces in Kabul itself, fearing the future.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a televised speech on Saturday, his first public appearance since the recent Taliban gains, in which he vowed not to give up the "achievements" of the 20 years since the US toppled the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks.

Why are the group capturing parts of Afghanistan and which territories have been captured?

Pakistani troops patrol along Pakistan-Afghanistan border fence in the Khyber district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on August 3, 2021. (Photo AFP via Getty Images)

Who are the Taliban?

An extremely conservative political and religious faction, the Taliban first emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan, following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

The group’s name means means “students” or “seekers” in Pashto, the language spoken by Pashtuns, an ethnic group of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban group has gradually regained strength since and is seizing territory again after they were removed from power in Afghanistan by US-led forces in 2001.

The group had previously governed Afghanistan under a harsh version of Islamic law in which women were forbidden to work or attend school, and could not leave their homes without a male relative accompanying them.

Why is the Taliban capturing Afghan territories?

The US and its Nato allies agreed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 to withdraw all troops from the country after two decades of war that claimed the lives of 457 British soldiers.

The deal was made in return for the militant group not to allow any extremists, including al-Qaeda, to operate in areas that they control.

A deadline of 11 September - the 20 year anniversary of the attacks on the US - was set by President Joe Biden for US troops to fully withdraw.

The US has continued holding peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar this week, and the international community has warned that a Taliban government brought about by force would be shunned.

Which parts of Afghanistan have been captured?

The collapse of Jalalabad, near a major border crossing with Pakistan, leaves Afghanistan’s central government in control of just Kabul and six other provincial capitals out of the country’s 34 - causing more than 1,000 civilian casualties in the past month, according to the UN.

Militants posted photos online early on 15 August showing them in the governor’s office in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.

Thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will again impose a brutal, repressive government, all but eliminating women’s rights and conducting public executions.

Some ATMs have stopped distributing cash as hundreds gathered in front of private banks, trying to withdraw their life savings.

Afghans wait in long lines for hours at the passport office as many are desperate to have their travel documents ready to go on August 14, in Kabul, as tensions are high as the Taliban advance on the capital city (Paula Bronstein /Getty)

How close is the Taliban to Kabul?

Three Afghan officials told the Associated Press that the Taliban were in the districts of Kalakan, Qarabagh and Paghman in the capital.

In a nationwide offensive that has taken just over a week, the Taliban have defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swathes of the country, even with some air support by the US military.

Rapid shuttle flights of Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters near the embassy began a few hours later after the militants seized the nearby city of Jalalabad.

Diplomatic armoured SUVs could be seen leaving the area around the post.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to questions about the movements.

“The defence and security forces along with the international forces (are) working for the security of Kabul city and the situation is under control,” the presidency said amid the chaos.

Why have British troops been sent?

Britain and the US agreed to send in additional troops, with 600 UK personnel helping with efforts to get citizens out of the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff.

The withdrawal of troops – intended to mark the end of a two-decade war – was agreed following a deal signed between then US president Donald Trump and the Taliban in February 2020.

Since the deal was signed, Mr Trump’s successor Joe Biden has continued with the withdrawal timetable.

Mr Wallace has called it a “rotten deal” but said the UK was left with no alternative but to follow Washington’s lead.

Additional reporting by PA.