KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban took control of two major cities in Afghanistan on Friday, local officials confirmed, as the militant group continues to take over the country.
The Taliban seized Kandahar in the south and Herat in the west, making both cities the biggest prizes for the militant group, who have taken over nearly two-thirds of Afghanistan following the U.S. pulling its troops after nearly two decades of war.
In a statement, the Taliban said they have taken over the governor’s office, police headquarters, and other major hubs around the city of Kandahar, which was formerly a major hub for US military operations.
The city of Herat, the third-largest city in Afghanistan, was taken over on Thursday evening, with the group taking control of the governor’s office and Herat police headquarters.
The news comes after the U.S. said Thursday they would send 3,000 troops to help secure the withdrawal of staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The decision was made “in light of the evolving security situation”, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan comes at the end of a rapid U.S. troop withdrawal, which began in early April. President Joe Biden had set a deadline for all U.S. troops out of the region by August 31.
The White House has been under fire from lawmakers and other U.S. officials for how it has managed the withdrawal of troops. Critics have slammed the Biden administration, saying they needed a more detailed plan for assisting Afghan security forces and to evacuate Afghans who assisted the U.S.
Some U.S. officials fear the militant group could take over the city of Ghazni, which is just 80 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul. The United States military has been conducting one to five airstrikes each day, resulting in destroyed equipment the Taliban has stolen from the Afghan military.
Biden, who has left the White House for Delaware and Camp David for the weekend, did not respond to questions from reporters on Thursday about the unfolding situation in Afghanistan.