Taliban continues rapid advance; captures key city of Jalalabad

The armed group’s offensive leaves the government in control of just seven provincial capitals and Kabul.

The Taliban raced closer to a complete military takeover of Afghanistan on Sunday after capturing more major cities, leaving only the isolated capital Kabul for the armed group to conquer.

The Taliban seized Afghanistan’s key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, securing key roads connecting the country to Pakistan.

The fall of Jalalabad on Sunday morning leaves Afghanistan’s central government in control of just Kabul and seven other provincial capitals out of the country’s 34.

President Ashraf Ghani’s government appeared to be left with few options as the Taliban effectively surrounded Kabul – either prepare for a bloody fight for the capital or capitulate.

The capture of Jalalabad – with an estimated population of more than 280,000 – and other areas in Nangarhar province gives the Taliban control over the Torkham border crossing, the largest trade and transit route between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In a nationwide offensive in the past week, the Taliban has defeated, co-opted, or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country, despite some air support from the US military.

Here are all the latest updates:

2 mins ago (07:32 GMT)

Pakistan closes Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan

Pakistan has closed the Torkham crossing with Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover of the the Afghan side of the border, Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said.

7 mins ago (07:27 GMT)

Afghan civilians flee rural areas

Early on Sunday, refugees from Taliban-controlled provinces were seen unloading belongings from taxis, families stood outside embassy gates, while the city’s downtown was packed with people stocking up on supplies.

Hundreds of people slept huddled in tents or in the open in the city, by roadsides or in car parks, a resident said. “You can see the fear in their faces.”

36 mins ago (06:59 GMT)

Taliban takes provincial Afghan capital just west of Kabul

An Afghan lawmaker and the Taliban say fighters have seized a provincial capital just west of Kabul.

The Taliban took Maidan Shahr, capital of Maidan Wardak province, on Sunday. It is about 90km (55 miles) from the national capital Kabul.

1 hour ago (06:32 GMT)

Taliban capture district in Kabul

After taking the provinces of Nangarhar and Laghman overnight, the Taliban have captured the Sarobi district, an hour east of the capital. It marks the first district in the province of Kabul to be taken by the armed group.

2 hours ago (05:34 GMT)

Taliban seize control of Nangarhar

Sources in the eastern province of Nangarhar have confirmed to Al Jazeera that Jalalabad, the capital, was handed over to the Taliban as part of a deal struck by local elders and the governor, Zia-ul Haq Amarkhil with the armed group in order to protect civilians.

Nangarhar is the 23rd province to fall, Jalalabad was the last major city other than the capital, Kabul, to be taken by the Taliban.

The fall of Jalalabad gives the group control of a road leading to the Pakistan city of Peshawar, one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan.

A security official in the city said the Taliban had agreed to give safe passage to government officials and security forces while they leave Jalalabad.

2 hours ago (05:33 GMT)

US begins evacuating embassy in Kabul

The US has started evacuating diplomats from its embassy in Kabul, two US officials told Reuters news agency with helicopters landing on the premises as diplomatic vehicles leave the compound.

“We have a small batch of people leaving now as we speak, a majority of the staff are ready to leave … the embassy continues to function,” one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said.

The rapid helicopter shuttle runs came as wisps of smoke rose from the embassy’s roof. US officials previously said diplomats inside had begun destroying sensitive documents.

2 hours ago (05:33 GMT)

Taliban capture Daikondi

The central province of Daikondi has fallen to the Taliban, a political representative from the province told Al Jazeera. As of Sunday morning, at least 23 provinces are now in control of the Taliban.