Half of all Afghan district centres under Taleban control, says US general

General Mark Milley (right) snd US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) brief reporters at the Pentagon on July 21, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Taleban insurgents control about half of Afghanistan's district centres, the senior US general said on Wednesday (July 21), indicating a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

Insecurity has been growing in Afghanistan in recent weeks, largely spurred by fighting in its provinces as US-led foreign troops complete their withdrawal and the Taleban launch major offensives, taking districts and border crossings.

"Strategic momentum appears to be sort of with the Taleban," General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

Milley said more than 200 of the 419 district centres were under Taleban control.

Last month, he had said the Taleban controlled 81 district centres in Afghanistan.

While the insurgent group had not taken over any provincial capitals, they were putting pressure on the outskirts of half of them, he said.

The government has accused the Taleban of destroying hundreds of government buildings in 29 of the country's 34 provinces. The Taleban deny accusations of extensive destruction by their fighters.

Fifteen diplomatic missions and the Nato representative in Afghanistan urged the Taleban on Monday to halt its offensives just hours after the rival Afghan sides failed to agree on a ceasefire at a peace meeting in Doha.

Biden has set a formal end to the US military mission in Afghanistan for Aug 31 as he looks to disengage from a conflict that began after Al-Qaeda's attacks on the United States on Sept 11, 2001.

Almost all US troops, except those protecting the embassy in Kabul and airport, have left the country.

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