Taliban press on, take another Afghan provincial capital

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Smoke rises from damaged shops after fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Taliban fighters Sunday took control of much of the capital of Kunduz province, including the governor’s office and police headquarters, a provincial council member said. (AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil)

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban have taken another provincial capital in Afghanistan, pressing on with their relentless offensive as American and NATO forces finalize their pullout from the war-torn country.

The council chief of northern Sar-e Pul province said on Monday that the Taliban overran the provincial capital, the city of Sar-e Pul, meeting little resistance in their last few days of their advance. The government forces have now completely withdrawn from the province.

The militants have ramped up their push across much of Afghanistan in recent weeks, turning their guns on provincial capitals after taking district after district and large swaths of land in the mostly rural countryside.

The news comes as the U.S. military continues to conclude its mission in Afghanistan which is set to happen on August 31. President Joe Biden announced an end to the nearly 20-year war back in July.

An Afghan family flees fighting as Afghan security personnel took back control of parts of the city of Herat following fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces, on the outskirts of Herat, 640 kilometers (397 miles) west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Hamed Sarfarazi)

Biden says US war in Afghanistan will end August 31

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build,” Biden said in a speech to update his administration’s ongoing efforts to wind down the U.S. war in Afghanistan. “Afghan leaders have to come together and drive toward a future.”

Biden had been under pressure from critics to give a more expansive explanation for his decision to withdraw.

The effort to further explain his thinking on Afghanistan comes as the administration in recent days has repeatedly sought to frame ending the conflict as a decision that Biden made after concluding it’s an “unwinnable war” and one that “does not have a military solution.”

US returns Bagram Airfield to Afghans after nearly 20 years

Shops are damaged shops after fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Taliban fighters Sunday took control of much of the capital of Kunduz province, including the governor’s office and police headquarters, a provincial council member said. (AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil)

“How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” Biden said to those calling for the U.S. to extend the military operation. He added, “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan, with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”

Biden said he didn’t trust the Taliban but trusted the capacity of the Afghan military to defend the government.

Before his speech, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden administration officials always anticipated an “uptick” in violence and greater turmoil as the U.S. withdrawal moved forward. She added that prolonging U.S. military involvement, considering former President Donald Trump had already agreed to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 2021, would have led to an escalation of attacks on American troops.

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