War is raging in three major cities in southwestern Afghanistan as Taliban militants seek to take them from government forces.
Taliban troops invaded parts of Herat, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar.
Rural areas have benefitted rapidly from the news that most foreign troops will depart by September.
But the fate of these important cities could be crucial for fear of a human crisis and the duration of government intervention.
Islamicist militants now think they have taken over half of Afghanistan, including crossing border borders with Iran and Pakistan.
In Lashkar Gah, the rebels were said to be just a few hundred yards from the governor’s office on Saturday – but they had been repatriated overnight.
It was their second such attempt on several days. The commander of the Afghan army said they had seriously injured soldiers on Friday.
Another Kandahar MP told the BBC the city was in serious danger of falling into the Taliban, with tens of thousands of people already displaced and a humanitarian catastrophe.
Gul Ahmad Kamin said the situation was getting worse by the hour, and the fighting inside the city was the worst in 20 years.
He said the Taliban now see Kandahar as a major focus area, a city they want to build their temporary capital. If it falls, then another five or six provinces in the region will also be lost, said Mr Kamin.
He said the Taliban militants were in several parts of the city and because of the large population government troops would not be able to use heavy weapons if the troops were fully inside.
In Herat, a Tolo News reporter said tensions were high, with Taliban troops marching in the southern parts of the most important economic city.
- US General Kenneth McKenzie vows to continue airstrikes supporting Afghan troops.
- Afghan refugees receive $100 million in emergency aid from the US.
There are reports of fighting in at least five different locations.
The United States continues to hold air strikes in support of Afghan forces, which have taken control of the region near the airport.
A security guard outside the UN compound near the airport was killed Friday in what the UN described as a deliberate attack on the Taliban.
Residents say few places in the city are safe and some people take up arms to protect themselves.
The EU’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, said he believed the war was far from over.
He said he feared the Taliban’s way of thinking was now “something they had before – to re-establish their Islamic power”.
The former British army chief, Gen David Richards, has warned that an international withdrawal could lead to the collapse of the Afghan army, which has led to the occupation of the Taliban and possibly a renewed terrorist threat.
Aid agencies have also warned of a major crisis in the coming months as the Taliban continue to attack – shortages of food, water and services, and overcrowding in refugee camps.
The US military and its Nato and regional allies forced the Taliban into power in November 2001.
The group had retained Osama Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda figures related to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
But without international support, the support and training of Afghan government forces, the Taliban regrouped and gradually regained power.
In February 2020, then-US President Donald Trump and his allies agreed to sign an agreement with the Taliban over the withdrawal of foreign troops.
This year, President Joe Biden announced that the withdrawal would take place in September.