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Taliban captures more Afghan districts as fighting escalates

Taliban militants added to their recent military gains, winning control over two more districts in Afghanistan, one of them strategically important, officials said on Thursday.
After two days of intense clashes between the Taliban and the security forces in Arghanj Khwa district in the north-eastern province of Badakshan, soldiers were forced to leave the last remaining checkpoints they were holding, local councillors Abdullah Naji Nazari and Mahboob-ul Rahman Talaat said.
The councillors said that the district is strategically important since it is located only 10 kilometres from the provincial capital of Faizabad. It also connects at least 10 other districts in the province.
In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban took another district in the province of Uruzgan, members of the provincial parliament Bismillah Jan Mohammad and Qudratullah Rahimi said.
The security forces in the district of Chinartoo joined the militants since they had not received any supplies, the MPs said.
After Gizab, this was the second district in Uruzgan that has fallen to the Taliban in recent days.
In the meantime, the Taliban attacked a military base with a car bomb in the capital of Baghlan province, killing a number of members of the security forces while others were wounded, according to local councillors.
It is the fifth consecutive day that the insurgents have succeeded in overrunning districts.
The militants have seen a string of gains in the country. Since the beginning of the official withdrawal of the United States and other NATO troops in Afghanistan on May 1, at least 14 districts have fallen to the Taliban. Top US military General Kenneth McKenzie said in a statement on Monday that US troops had completed about 50 per cent of their withdrawal.
Afghanistan has 34 provinces and around 400 districts. District centres serve as secondary-level administrative units, one level below the provinces. According to a UN report, in the past year the Taliban were able to capture five districts, four of which were recaptured by the government within several days.
The Pentagon is now considering seeking authorization to carry out airstrikes to support Afghan security forces if Kabul or another major city is in danger of falling to the Taliban, according a New York Times report.