On Sunday, Taliban forces mostly overran the provincial capital city of Sar-e-Pul, also in the country’s north, marking another loss for the government amid a series of unprecedented advances by the insurgency in its 20-year war.
A member of the Sar-e-pul provincial council told CNN the city had fallen to the Taliban and that one remaining army base containing Afghan security forces was surrounded by Taliban fighters.
The Taliban said in a statement that they had taken the city. CNN has been unable to independently verify the group’s claims.
In Kunduz, the Afghan Defense Ministry said commandos had taken back control of the city’s General Raziq Square and the headquarters of the Kunduz National Radio and TV as fighting in the province continues.
Earlier in the day, a member of the Kunduz provincial council confirmed to CNN that most of the provincial capital had fallen to the Taliban.
The Taliban said that all parts of the city were under its control, adding that it had also seized armored vehicles, weapons and military equipment. CNN could not independently confirm the Taliban’s claims.
Heavy fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in the city on Saturday killed at least 11 civilians and wounded 40, according to Kunduz health director, Dr. Ehsanullah Fazli.
Provincial council member Gholam Rabani Rabani told CNN both sides had suffered casualties on Saturday during fighting on the outskirts of the city, and that the total number of fatalities was still unclear.
US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation in Kunduz, a White House official told CNN.
“The President has been briefed and senior officials from the NSC, State, and DOD (Department of Defense) are actively engaging through secure channels with Embassy Kabul to assess developments,” the official said, confirming news first reported by the New York Times.
Descent into violence
The country’s swift descent into violence following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops supporting the government has shocked many. There are fears even the national capital, Kabul, could fall.
The Taliban has accused the US of bombing a hospital and a high school, along with other civilian targets in Helmand Province. CNN could not independently verify their claims.
The US Embassy in Kabul criticized the Taliban’s offensive on Afghan cities on Sunday, saying its actions to “forcibly impose its rule are unacceptable and contradict its claim to support a negotiated settlement in the Doha peace process. They demonstrate wanton disregard for the welfare and rights of civilians and will worsen this country’s humanitarian crisis.”
In Kabul, Taliban attackers on Friday killed Dawa Khan Menapal, director of the Afghan government’s media and information center. On Tuesday, the district governor of Sayed Abad in Maidan Wardak, Amir Mohammad Malikzai, was also killed by Taliban fighters in Kabul, government officials have told CNN.
On Saturday, the US Embassy in Kabul urged American citizens to leave the country “immediately using available commercial flight options.”
“Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist US citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul,” the embassy said in a statement.
The UK’s Foreign Office updated its advice on Friday, telling its nationals to leave Afghanistan by commercial means.
CNN’s Aaron Pellish, Hannah Ritchie, Clarissa Ward, Brent Swails, Arlette Saenz and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.