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The latest on Afghanistan as Taliban advances towards Kabul

The latest on Afghanistan as Taliban advances towards Kabul

Afghan security forces have been able to push back a Taliban offensive on Mazar-i-Sharif that started at 4 a.m. local time, according to an Afghan security source with knowledge of the fighting. 

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Afghan security forces pushing back against Taliban in Mazar-i-Sharif, source says

According to the source, the Taliban successfully managed to conquer the gates of Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city before being pushed back by Afghan security forces. 

They were able to do so again, and now Afghan security forces are advancing, trying to push them out of the city. 

The Taliban is attacking the city on three fronts, according to the source.

Biden will be briefed regularly on Afghanistan while at Camp David

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

US President Biden received additional briefings throughout the day Friday by his national security team on the situation in Afghanistan while at Camp David, a White House official confirmed to CNN on Saturday.

As CNN previously reported, the President stands firm in his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, the official confirmed, even as the Taliban continues to seize provincial capitals at an accelerated rate.

Biden is expected to be briefed regularly this weekend while at Camp David, CNN's Jeremy Diamond reported Friday. 

The White House tweeted a photo Friday evening of Biden on the phone receiving a briefing on the ongoing efforts to withdraw US embassy staff in Afghanistan.

“Today President Biden spoke with Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about the ongoing efforts to safely drawdown the civilian footprint in Afghanistan," the tweet read.

Qatar calls on the Taliban to "cease fire" and work through the peace process after Doha talks

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has urged the Taliban to “reduce escalation and cease fire.”

The country’s foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday that Al Thani conveyed his position in a meeting with the head of the Taliban's Political Bureau, Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader, and his accompanying delegation in Doha.

“Last week, Doha hosted an expanded international meeting on Afghanistan, which culminated in the participants agreeing on a set of positions, including the need to accelerate the peace process, negotiate concrete proposals from the Afghan sides, work to build confidence, stop violence between the two sides, and respect international law. Not to recognize any government in Afghanistan that is imposed through the use of military force,” the ministry added in its statement.

The statement followed talks in Doha on Thursday between Taliban representatives and Afghan government officials, along with envoys from the United States, China, Pakistan, the UN, the European Union, among others.

Taliban claim to have captured provincial capital of Gardez

The Taliban says it has captured another provincial capital, Gardez, on Saturday. If confirmed, the capture of Gardez — which is the capital of Paktia — would occur as the Taliban advances to the national capital of Kabul.

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Afghanistan has 34 provincial capitals.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the governor's office, police headquarters, intelligence center and all its facilities had been seized.  

“A large number of weapons and equipment fell into the hands of Mujahideen,” he tweeted.

The spokesperson said the Taliban were now advancing towards the base of the 203rd Thunder Corps, the army unit that was defending Gardez.

There's been no word from the government on the Taliban's claim, but images and video from the city show Taliban fighters on the streets. Video also showed dozens of men running from the city's prison.

Taliban claim to have captured provincial capital of Gardez

The Taliban says it has captured another provincial capital, Gardez, on Saturday. If confirmed, the capture of Gardez — which is the capital of Paktia — would occur as the Taliban advances to the national capital of Kabul.

Afghanistan has 34 provincial capitals.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the governor's office, police headquarters, intelligence center and all its facilities had been seized.  

“A large number of weapons and equipment fell into the hands of Mujahideen,” he tweeted.

The spokesperson said the Taliban were now advancing towards the base of the 203rd Thunder Corps, the army unit that was defending Gardez.

There's been no word from the government on the Taliban's claim, but images and video from the city show Taliban fighters on the streets. Video also showed dozens of men running from the city's prison.

"Still people are having fear" -- What life is like in some of the cities captured by the Taliban

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Over the last week, the Taliban has made significant gains across Afghanistan and now control over half of the country's provincial capitals. Cities like Kandahar, Herat and Kunduz are among those now under control of the Taliban, whose fighters are circling ever closer to the capital, Kabul.

CNN spoke to Afghans in Herat and Kunduz, where some said the Taliban had brought a sense of quiet after weeks of fighting, while others expressed fear.

Ismahel is a 40-year-old shopkeeper in the city of Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city and a major urban center in western Afghanistan. He tells CNN normality is returning to the city after the tumult of its fall to the Taliban on Thursday evening.

"[The] entire city is back to normal, people are living normally [and] shops are all open," Ismahel says, adding that he has seen women dressed in burqas resuming their daily lives too.

He recalled a friend visiting his shop on Thursday warning of the Taliban's encroachment and suggesting they flee the city.

"We closed the shops and went home. Afterwards, we saw that the city fell to the Taliban," he said. "Today is the first day so students didn't go to school, but government employees went to their offices."

He added that some people were happy that fighting and "the sounds of bullets" had stopped after a month.

"We feel good after the war finished," he said.

But people in Herat are also likely living in fear, and many would be hesitant to express criticism of the Taliban in such early days of its control.

In Kunduz, the first city to be taken, 31-year-old resident Atiqullah says people are adapting to the transition of power but remain fearful.

"Still people are having fear, although we were told by the Taliban not to be afraid," Atiqullah tells CNN.

He adds that some women are going out and have been told to wear burqas, while teachers have been told to return to schools, though the Taliban has said only male teachers should educate boys and female teachers tutor girls.

 

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