The Taliban continue to gain territory in Afghanistan and stir international fears of a humanitarian crisis in the wake of the ongoing withdrawal by US and allied forces.
The Muslim extremist group claims to now control 85 percent of the country. It also seized key border crossings with Iran and Turkmenistan in the western province of Herat, according to reports.
U.S. officials downplayed the gains this week and said U.S.-backed Afghan government forces are ready to defend their nation.
“Claiming territory or claiming ground doesn’t mean you can sustain that or keep it over time” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in an interview with CNN. “And so I think it’s really time for the Afghan forces to get into the field – and they are in the field – and to defend their country, their people.
But Kirby also acknowledged a “deteriorating security situation” in Afghanistan.
The World Health Organization warned of a pending humanitarian crisis.
“We are concerned about our lack of access to be able to provide essential medicines and supplies and we are concerned about attacks on health care,” WHO regional emergencies director Rick Brennan told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.
He said at least 18.4 million Afghans require humanitarian assisitance, including 3.1 million children at risk of acute malnutrition.
The Biden Administration pulled the last American troops out of Bagram Airfield, the U.S. military’s largest Afghan base, last week. It has set a target date of Aug. 31 for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops, minus a force to protect the American embassy in Kabul.