Taliban takes control of northern provincial capital city in Afghanistan: report

This is the fourth provincial capital taken over by the Taliban in less than a week.

The Taliban took control of most of Kunduz city, the capital of northern Afghanistan's Kunduz province, on Sunday, according to reports.

Kunduz was the fourth provincial capital to be mostly taken over by the Taliban in less than a week as they also "wage an assassination campaign in the capital, Kabul," the Associated Press reported.

The governor's office, police headquarters, and the main prison building, where Taliban fighters were freed along with the rest of the 500 inmates, were seized by the Taliban after a day of firefights, according to two provincial council members.

With a population of over 340,000, Kunduz is one of the larger Afghan cities and was a key area of defense by western troops during the war. 

Fighting continued at the airport in Kunduz and other areas in the city where the government still had control, said Councilman Ghulam Rabani Rabani.

Councilman Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi told the outlet the Taliban controls everything in Kunduz besides the airport and main army barracks, which the Afghan forces still have.

"The innocent and poor must pay the cost of the war in Kunduz and other parts of the country, both government forces and the Taliban are the enemy of civilians," he said. "One can't provide security and the other doesn't care about people's safety."

In the Afghan capital of Kabul, the country's government has denied losing Kunduz. Afghan forces are continuing the fight and have retaken some areas from Taliban forces, said Interior Ministry Spokesman Mirwais Stanekzai.

A senior Biden administration official told the AP on condition of anonymity that White House National Security Council, Department of State, and Department of Defense senior officials were assessing the impact of Kunduz's capture with U.S. embassy officials in Kabul.

Despite the Taliban's gains, the Biden administration is continuing with its plan to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the month, the senior administration official indicated to the wire service.

The White House raised concerns in recent days over reported retaliation by the Taliban against civilians. The Biden administration condemned a recent attack that targeted the Afghan defense chief, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, and killed eight and wounded others; and another that killed a government press officer, Dawa Khan Menapal. 

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Friday that the attacks are contrary to "the Taliban claim to want international legitimacy," and said that the Taliban forces "do not have to stay on this trajectory."

Taleqan, the capital of Takhar province and has a population of 200,000, was also taken over by the Taliban on Sunday, according to two Afghan lawmakers. Nazifa Yousefi Beg, a member of parliament from Takhar province, "said that all provincial officials including the governor, police chief, and council members were on the run," the AP reported, and that the government should send reinforcements.