Related Topics

  • War in Afghanistan (2001-present)

image sourceGetty Imagesimage captionPeople have been sleeping in makeshift camps after fleeing their homes

US President Joe Biden has said he does not regret his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, as the Taliban continue to make advances.

Mr Biden urged Afghanistan's leaders to unite and "fight for their nation".

Violence has escalated across the country now that US-led forces have all but withdrawn following 20 years of military operations.

The Taliban have taken at least eight of the country's 34 provincial capitals, and are threatening more.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Mr Biden said the US was keeping the commitments it had made to Afghanistan, such as providing close air support, paying military salaries and supplying Afghan forces with food and equipment.

But he said: "They've got to fight for themselves."

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed amid fierce fighting between the Taliban and government forces in the past month, according to the UN. Its children's agency Unicef warned this week that atrocities being committed against children were growing "higher by the day".

In their latest major advances, Taliban militants seized two more provincial capitals – Farah city and Pul-e-Khumri – on Tuesday.

Officials said the insurgents had raised their flag in the main square and on the governor's office in Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, which is located about 200km (125 miles) from the capital Kabul.

A local journalist and provincial council member told the BBC that the western city of Farah had also fallen.

Other gains by the Taliban this week include the key northern city of Kunduz. It is considered a gateway to mineral-rich provinces and is in a strategically important location close to the border with Tajikistan, which is used for the smuggling of opium and heroin.

Heavy fighting is continuing in other parts of the country, and US and Afghan planes have been carrying out airstrikes.

  • EXPLAINER: Why is there a war in Afghanistan?
  • ANALYSIS: How the Taliban retook half of Afghanistan
  • PROFILE: Who are the Taliban?

As the fighting rages, thousands of people have been fleeing their homes.

"We saw bodies lying near the prison… there were dogs next to them," one woman who left Kunduz as the Taliban took control told AFP news agency.

Residents still in the city said shops had begun to reopen as Taliban militants 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," one said.

The Taliban have rejected international calls for a ceasefire.

UK Chief of the Defence Staff Gen Sir Nick Carter told the BBC that if the state fractured, the "ideal conditions" could emerge for international terrorism and violent extremism.

media captionGen Sir Nick Carter: A security vacuum could led to international terrorism