The United States is urging Americans in Afghanistan to leave the country immediately, saying the ability of the U.S. embassy in Kabul to help them is "extremely limited" due to security conditions and reduced staffing.
The embassy issued a security alert on Saturday encouraging Americans to fly out on commercial flights and said it can provide repatriation loans for citizens who can't afford to buy tickets.
The alert comes months after the State Department ordered government employees at the U.S. embassy in Kabul to leave if they can work elsewhere. It also comes as Taliban militants are attacking Afghan cities.
On Friday, militants. By Saturday, another province's capital city had fallen to the group.
"Sheberghan city has fallen to the Taliban completely," Babur Eshchi, head of Jowzjan's provincial council, told CBS News.
They took control of the city's police headquarters and intelligence agency building, as well as most government buildings, including the governor's office, said Halima Sadaf Karimi, a member of parliament from the Jowzjan province. Only a military base outside the city is under the control of the army, she said.
"Taliban have started searching for people home-to-home," she said, based on her information from locals. "Many civilians were injured in the fight so far. People could not take their wounded to hospitals."
The Taliban is fighting to take power after the group signed a withdrawal deal with the Americans in 2020 and the Biden administration vowed a withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August.
There are reports Afghan President Ashraf Ghani may announce a military situation, including plans to secure the city of Kabul.
In the northern Kunduz province, where intense fighting was underway Saturday, at least 96 people were wounded, and 11 were killed in the past 24 hours, according to the head of the provincial hospital. Ehsanullah Fazly. Women, men and children are among the victims, and ambulances cannot evacuate wounded people because of an intense gun battle in the capital city.
The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan condemned the Taliban's seizure of cities in a statement on Saturday.
"We condemn the Taliban's violent new offensive against Afghan cities. This includes the unlawful seizure of Zaranj, the capital of Afghanistan's Nimroz province, the attack on Sheberghan, capital of Jowzjan province yesterday and today, and continuing efforts to take over Lashkar Gah in Helmand and provincial capitals elsewhere," it said.
"These Taliban actions to forcibly impose its rule are unacceptable and contradict its claim to support a negotiated settlement in the Doha peace process," it said.
"We call for the Taliban to agree to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire and to engage fully in peace negotiations to end the suffering of the Afghan people and pave the way for an inclusive political settlement that benefits all Afghans and ensures that Afghanistan does not again serve as a safe haven for terrorists," it said.
The U.S embassy calling on Americans to leave Afghanistan immediately is expected to further undermine the already weakened morale of Afghans.
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