image sourceGetty Imagesimage captionMore than a quarter of a million people have been displaced

Taliban fighters have edged closer to the Afghan capital Kabul, as their rapid advance shows no sign of slowing.

Fighting has been reported in Maidan Shar, 40km (25 miles) from the capital, and in Mazar-e-Sharif, the only major city in the north still under government control.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is holding intensive talks with regional and international allies.

More than a quarter of a million people have been displaced by the violence.

With much of the country in Taliban hands many of those fleeing have headed towards Kabul in the hope of finding safety.

Women in areas captured by the Taliban described being forced to wear burkas and the militants are also reported to have beaten and lashed people for breaking social rules.

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US troops now in Kabul will be able to airlift thousands of people a day, officials say.

Around 600 British troops are due to arrive in the city this weekend to help with the withdrawal of UK citizens. They will also assist the relocation of Afghans who helped British forces and now risk reprisals from the Taliban.

Other Western countries are now scrambling to evacuate their nationals, scaling back their presence in Afghanistan and in some cases closing their embassies altogether.

A number of cities have negotiated surrenders with the Taliban as resistance from government forces crumbles. However, there is no sign of that happening in Kabul.

The capitals of two more provinces, Paktika and Kunar, fell to the militants on Saturday. Unverified footage from the city of Assadabad, in Kunar, showed people waving the Taliban flag and walking through the streets.

The Taliban are now in control of more than half of the provincial capitals in the country.

Ghani addresses the nation

In a pre-recorded TV address on Saturday, Mr Ghani said a top priority was the remobilisation of the Afghan armed forces to prevent further destruction and displacement of people.

Mr Ghani said he would not let a war that was "imposed" on people "cause more deaths", and praised the "courageous" security forces.

media captionPresident Ashraf Ghani: ''The reintegration of the security and defence forces is our priority''

The speech came amid speculation by some that Mr Ghani may have been about to announce his resignation.

The UN has appealed to neighbouring countries to keep their borders open so that displaced Afghans can reach safety. UN Secretary General António Guterres said the situation was spinning out of control.

Afghan war – the basics

  • US-led forces toppled the Taliban: In 2001 US-led forces overthrew Afghanistan's Taliban rulers after the 9/11 attacks masterminded by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was based there.
  • Twenty years of occupation and military operations followed: The US and allies oversaw elections and built up Afghan security forces, but the Taliban continued to launch attacks.
  • Eventually the US made a deal with the Taliban: They would pull out if the militants agreed not to host terrorist groups. But talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government failed. US-led forces withdrew this year and the Taliban have now retaken most of the country.