Taliban takes up positions on highways that connect strategic Kunduz city to neighbouring provinces, officials say, as fighting escalates between insurgents and government troops.
The Taliban and Afghan forces have clashed on the outskirts of a strategic northern city of Kunduz, with the insurgent group claiming to have captured three districts in a week.
"The Taliban fighters are at the gates of the city and they are fighting Afghan forces," said Amruddin Wali, a Kunduz provincial council member on Monday.
He said the fighters have also taken up positions on highways that connect Kunduz city to neighbouring provinces.
On Monday, the Taliban claimed they had captured the Imam Sahib district of the province, the third to be taken in a week.
Kunduz police spokesperson Inamuddin Rahmani confirmed the fighting, and said his forces had killed about 50 Taliban fighters in the past 24 hours.
Both the Taliban and Afghan forces frequently exaggerate casualties inflicted on each other.
Key transit point for trade
The Taliban have launched major offensives targeting government forces since early May when the US military began its final troop withdrawal, and claim to have seized more than 50 of the country's 421 districts.
Many of their claims are disputed by the government, and independent verification is difficult, especially in areas that frequently change hands.
The Taliban have repeatedly attempted to capture the city, located not far from the border with Tajikistan.
The armed group briefly held Kunduz twice before — in September 2015, and again a year later.
Kunduz had been a stronghold of the Taliban before the fighters seized power in the 1990s.
The city's location makes it a key transit point for economic and trade exchanges with Tajikistan.
READ MORE: Karzai: US has failed in Afghanistan
In recent weeks the armed group has focused on capturing territory in northern Afghanistan, and security forces have largely failed to stop their assaults.
They claim to have captured several districts in the northern provinces of Faryab, Takhar and Badakhshan, forcing military leaders to strategically retreat from a number of areas.
The Defence Ministry confirmed that government troops had retreated from several districts but said they aimed to take them back.
Karzai says US failed in Afghanistan
In April, when President Joe Biden announced the final withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 troops, he said America was leaving having achieved its goals.
However, Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai said in an interview with the Associated Press that the United States came to his country to fight extremism and bring stability to Afghanistan but is leaving nearly 20 years later having failed at both.
Karzai's rule followed the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 by a US-led coalition that launched its invasion to hunt down and destroy the Al Qaeda network and its leader, Osama bin Laden, blamed for the 9/11 attacks on America.