Taliban take two more Afghan provincial capitals as envelopment of the country gathers pace

ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports on how the Taliban continues to gain more control in Afghanistan

The Taliban took control of two more provincial capitals in Afghanistan on Monday as Western forces complete their withdrawal from the country.

The week-long offensive by the Taliban has seen them claim huge swathes of territory and many key cities across the country.

At the same time, they have been waging an assassination campaign targeting senior government officials in the capital, Kabul.

An Afghan family fleeing amid heavy fighting in the city of Herat Credit: AP

The sweep comes despite condemnations by the international community and warnings from the United Nations that a military victory and takeover by the Taliban would not be recognised.

The Taliban have also not heeded appeals to return to the negotiating table and continue long-stalled peace talks with the Afghan government.

Barialai Khoshhal, who filmed some of the footage in our report, escaped his hometown of Kandahar with his family to the relative safety of the capital Kabul.

The video journalist told ITV News his fear of the Taliban capturing him, after hearing the group outside of his home.

He said: "It was very scary when you think they are coming and they will get you killed.

"That's very hard. I was thinking they may come to my home and grab me out, that was the first thought that came to my mind."

Credit: Barialai Khoshhal

Mr Khoshhal has a family and worried what would happen to them if they did not escape his hometown.

He said: "I have a son, a wife and a mother. We live in a home together. I was scared for them and I thought 'what are my family going to do if they kill me?'"

Mr Khoshhal believes the Americans withdrawing troops from Afghanistan has enabled the Taliban to gain momentum again.

He said: "The Americans left us in the middle of a conflict, they just left us with nothing. They left us in a middle of two ways and we don't know which way to go."

On Monday, UNICEF said it was shocked by the increasing number of casualties among children amid the escalating violence in Afghanistan.

Over the past three days, at least 27 children have been killed in various provinces, including 20 in Kandahar, it said.

“These atrocities are also evidence of the brutal nature and scale of violence in Afghanistan which preys on already vulnerable children,” the agency said.

Barialai Khoshhal, who escaped his hometown of Kandahar, says how he worried the Taliban would capture his family

The provincial capital of Aybak fell to the Taliban on Monday afternoon without resistance, two local lawmakers said adding the government officials fled to another district.

Provincial council member Mohammad Hashim Sarwari said Taliban fighters earlier had captured three districts of the province before overrunning the capital.

Another provincial lawmaker said some government installations were still under government control as security forces resisted Taliban fighters.

Barialai Khoshhal, who escaped his hometown of Kandahar, believes the Americans are to blame for the Taliban gaining control

According to Mohammad Noor Rahmani, the council chief of northern Sar-e Pul province, the Taliban overran the provincial capital after over a week of resistance by the Afghan security forces, after which the city of Sar-e Pul collapsed.

The government forces have now completely withdrawn from the province, he said.Several pro-government local militia commanders also surrendered to the Taliban without a fight, allowing the insurgents to gain control of the entire province, Mr Rahmani added.

With the fall of the cities of Aybak and Sar-e Pul the Taliban now control five provincial capitals.

The Taliban are also fighting on for control of the city of Kunduz, the capital of northern Kunduz province.

On Sunday, they planted their flag in the city’s main square.

NATO has almost completed its withdrawal from the country. Credit: AP

Kunduz’s capture would be a significant gain for the Taliban and a test of their ability to take and retain territory in their campaign against the Western-backed government.

It is one of the country’s larger cities with a population of more than 340,000, and was a key area defended against Taliban takeovers by Western troops over the years.The country-wide Taliban offensive intensified as US and NATO troops began to wrap up their withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer.

With Taliban attacks increasing, Afghan security forces and government troops have retaliated with airstrikes aided by the United States.

The fighting has also raised growing concerns about civilian casualties.