KABUL, Afghanistan — Officials say the Taliban has seized three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan and a local army headquarters.
The insurgents now control some two-thirds of the nation as the U.S. and NATO finalize their withdrawal after a decades-long war there.
The fall of the capitals of Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces to the northeast and Farah province to the west put increasing pressure on the country's central government to stem the tide of the advance, even as it lost a major base in Kunduz on Wednesday.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rushed to Balkh province to seek help pushing back the insurgents from warlords.
The province is already surrounded by Taliban-held territory. He also replaced his army chief of staff.
The Taliban conquests are challenging the Biden administration's often-stated hopes that a desire for international legitimacy will moderate the Taliban's worst behavior.
On Tuesday, U.S. Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban officials in Qatar to warn that they face pariah status if they seize power by force.
In a dig at President Joe Biden, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week mocked that diplomatic approach.
In answering questions following remarks on Tuesday, Biden stressed that he believed that the Afghani army still had the resources to defend the country against the Taliban.
(Afghanis) have to fight for themselves, fight for their nation," Biden said. "They have to want to fight; they have help."
At a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the Biden administration's plan for withdrawal, saying that it was based on the "safety and security" of Americans.
"After 20 years at war, it's time to bring our troops home," she said.
Some analysts and former diplomats say while the new Taliban do show interest in international legitimacy, they've shown no sign of changing their behavior.