Taliban fighters are advancing towards two provincial capitals in the north of Afghanistan after the militants succeeded in capturing several districts in those provinces.
In Takhar province, the militants have taken control of at least five districts within the past 24 hours, after government forces abandoned the district centres, local officials said on Sunday. Two other districts were captured during the past 10 days.
Local provincial politician Salahuddin Rabbani said there was fighting at the gate of the provincial capital Taloqan city, adding that the districts had been abandoned in order to save the provincial capital.
In Faryab province, the militants have besieged the provincial capital Maimana city, after overrunning several key districts one after another during the past two weeks.
Clashes were reported on the outskirts of Maimana city on Sunday too.
Local officials in both of the provinces described a loss of morale among members of pro-government forces, following mass surrenders in each province.
On Wednesday, more than 20 commandos were killed in a district in Faryab province. The next day, more than 200 members of pro-government forces surrendered to the Taliban in a neighbouring district, and handed over all their weapons and equipment.
On Friday, local officials reported that nearly 80 members of pro-government forces had surrendered to the Taliban in the Baharak district of Takhar province, after three days of intensive fighting.
Since the beginning of the official withdrawal of the United States and other NATO troops on May 1, at least 41 districts have fallen to the Taliban.