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US officials say the Taliban could gain control of Kabul much sooner than predicted. Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rallied government forces in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Afghanistan's president arrives in Mazar-i-Sharif to trying and rally forces loyal to the government
This article was last updated at 23:32 UTC
Aisha Khurram, a law student and former youth representative to the UN, told DW that the situation is growing more desperate by the day.
"Each and every day, there are flights that take thousands of passengers from Kabul, that are fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in different countries, some of them to some of the neighboring countries," Khurram said.
Khurram said that "everybody is at risk," but Afghans who were speaking about atrocities "cannot afford to leave the people who are relying on our support at this moment."
There's also a strong feeling of betrayal among Afghans regarding the US and NATO's withdrawal, she said, adding that in their absence, some are pinning their hopes on UN intervention.
"When it comes to the United States and NATO forces, there is a strong sense of disgust and disappointment. Nobody is relying on their help anymore. But the United Nations, it has a big and important role to play. It was created for this moment to save humanity from sinking into a chaos that would be irreversible."
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he could meet with the leader of the Taliban in a bid to help secure peace in Afghanistan.
"The latest developments and the situation of the Afghan public are really, really troubling," Erdogan said during a televised interview with CNN Turk.
"Maybe I will even be in a position to receive the person who is their leader," Erdogan said, after referring to efforts by Turkish officials for talks with the Taliban.
Turkey — which has had troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO force — has offered to secure the Kabul airport after the US finalizes its troop pullout.
The Taliban denied targeting and killing civilians during an offensive against Afghan forces and called for an independent investigation into the killings, Reuters news agency reported.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Islamist militant group, said the Taliban have "not not targeted any civilians or their homes in any locality, rather the operations have been undertaken with great precision and caution," according to a statement seen by Reuters.
Shaheen blamed Afghanistan's government troops and foreign forces for any civilian casualties.
Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi warned of a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis and said Europe was not in a position to deal with it, as the conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban intensifies.
"We are concerned about the implications of the deterioration in Afghanistan and that's why it is very critical and very important for the European Union to be proactive in preventing such a crisis," Mitarachi said.
"Absolutely not, the EU is not ready and does not have the capacity to handle another major migration crisis," he added.
Last week, Mitarachi co-signed a letter with ministers from five other EU countries saying deportations of failed asylum-seekers should continue despite the fighting, saying ending the policy "would send the wrong message".
"It would lead more people trying to leave and come to the European Union," Mitarachi told Reuters.
Greece was at the frontline of Europe's migration crisis in 2015, as nearly a million people from mostly Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq reached its borders.
A suicide car bomber targeted the government-held police headquarters in southern Helmand province, where the Taliban control nearly all of the capital of Lashkar Gar, the provincial council head Attaullah Afghan said.
The building has been under siege for two weeks, as intense fighting has been ongoing between the Taliban and government forces.
Germany is halting deportations to Afghanistan for the time being due to the unstable security situation in the country, the Interior Ministry said.
The Netherlands announced the same move shortly before.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer defended the halt to deportations Wednesday, noting, "a constitutional state also bears responsibility for ensuring deportations do not become a danger for those involved." He nevertheless pointed out, "Those who have no right of residence must leave Germany." Seehofer said he hoped to resume deportations, "as soon as the situation allows."
Hours earlier, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said that Germany believed deportations of Afghan asylum seekers could still go ahead. Speaking at a regular German government briefing, a foreign ministry spokesperson noted that the situation in Afghanistan was changing very quickly.
The Netherlands and Germany were two of six EU countries that recently signed a letter to the European Commission, insisting on the right to continue forced deportations of Afghan asylum seekers whose cases had been rejected.
Germany plans on revising visa procedure for Afghan Bundeswehr helpers
Germany is working on making it easier for Afghan personnel who worked for the Bundeswehr in the country to travel to Germany.
Service personnel who worked with foreign allies as translators and in other posts are at risk from the Taliban who consider them "traitors."
We've arranged internally with the ministries that we are ready to change the normal visa process to "Visa upon arrival," German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in comments to online news site The Pioneer. "The visa process would then be carried out here," she added.
"We have already taken 1,700 Afghans and their families out of the country and are currently trying to get the others as fast as possible out of Afghanistan." She said bureaucratic hurdles were causing "a bottleneck."
Currently, the Afghan government requires that any person traveling out of the country has a passport, the defense minister said. But the German government is currently in discussions looking at if this could be changed.
Kabul-based journalist Ali Latifi told DW that the capital was "the ultimate prize for the Taliban" but "it will "take a lot effort and organizing on their part to actually try and make it into Kabul."
Due to its size, it would take a large-scale logistics operation for the Taliban, he added.
Latifi also discussed the low morale of government troops, the Taliban's "smart" branding and the importance of President Ghani's visit to Mazar-i-Sharif.
Afghan officials and the Taliban say the insurgents have seized a major army base in Kunduz province. The base of the 217 Corps fell on Wednesday at the airport.
Amruddin Wali, a member of the Kunduz provincial council, said soldiers, police and uprising forces "surrendered to the Taliban with all their military gear."
The Taliban also reported on Twitter that soldiers from Kunduz airport had joined them, "bringing with them a number of tanks and vehicles."
The Taliban captured the northern city at the weekend, sending local government officials and soldiers fleeing to the airport around 8 kilometers (5 miles) south of the city center.
The Taliban's quick succession of gains has prompted US officials to warn the collapse of the Afghan capital, Kabul, could happen sooner than expected, according to a report in the Washington Post.
One unnamed official told the Post that the US military now thinks that collapse "could occur within 90 days."
This represents a revision from an earlier intelligence assessment, predicting the capital could fall into the hands of the Taliban within six to 12 months, the report stated.
"Everything is moving in the wrong direction," one person who is familiar with the US military's new intelligence assessment said.
A US defense official, citing intelligence sources, told Reuters that the Taliban could isolate Afghanistan's capital in 30 days.
"But this is not a foregone conclusion," the official added, noting that Afghan security forces can still reverse the momentum by putting up more resistance.
The Taliban have been emboldened by the US and international allies' complete drawdown of troops in the country. Despite the worsening outlook, US President Joe Biden has shown no plans to delay the August 31 deadline for all US forces to leave.
On Tuesday, he urged Afghan leaders to "fight for themselves."
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani flew to the besieged northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Wednesday, in a bid to rally forces.
He plans "to check the general security in the northern zone," according to a statement released by the palace.
The Afghan leader was also likely to hold talks with Mazar's long-time strongman Atta Mohammad Noor and infamous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum about the defense of the city.
Hours before Ghani arrived, pictures posted on official government social media accounts showed Dostum boarding a plane in Kabul, along with a contingent of commandos, en route to Mazar.
The loss of Mazar would be a further blow to the Kabul government. It would represent the almost complete collapse of its control over the north of the country.
The region has long been a bastion of anti-Taliban militias.
The Taliban overran three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan, officials said on Wednesday. A total of nine of the nation's 34 now are in control of the insurgents.
The cities to fall are: Fayzabad, the provincial capital of northeastern Badakhshan province; Pul-i-Khumri, of Baghlan province, also in the northeast and Farah, the capital of the western province with the same name. Badakhshan borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China.
Jawad Mujadidi, a provincial council member from Badakhshan, told Reuters news agency that Taliban fighters had taken most of the province and laid siege to Fayzabad before launching an offensive on Tuesday.
fb, kmm/aw, jsi (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)