Fighting is raging across several provinces, but the militants have primarily focused on a devastating campaign across the northern countryside.

Afghan Commando forces armoured convoy fights on the frontlines against the Taliban in Ghorband District, Parwan Province on June 29, 2021.
Afghan Commando forces armoured convoy fights on the frontlines against the Taliban in Ghorband District, Parwan Province on June 29, 2021. (Reuters)

Afghan authorities have deployed hundreds of commandos and pro-government militiamen to counter the Taliban's blistering offensive in the north.

The deployment on Tuesday comes as several countries said that they had restricted consular services in Afghanistan keeping in view the changing security dynamics.

Fighting has raged across several provinces, but the militants have primarily focused on a devastating campaign across the northern countryside, seizing dozens of districts in the past two months.

The surge in Taliban wins has caused some countries to close their consulates in the region, while across the border in Tajikistan, reservists are being called up to reinforce the southern border, according to officials and reports on Tuesday.

Nearly 1,000 Afghan soldiers have fled into Tajikistan, while others have surrendered as the Taliban gain large swathes of the region.

A statement on Monday from the Tajik government said President Emomali Rakhmon ordered the mobilisation of 20,000 military reservists to strengthen its border with Afghanistan.

READ MORE: Afghan government mulls offensive after losing key battles to Taliban

Consulates closed

The consulates of Turkey and Russia have reportedly closed in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, and Afghanistan's fourth-largest city. 

Iran said it has restricted activities at its consulate in the city.

There has been fighting in Balkh province, but the provincial capital has been relatively peaceful.

The consulates of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and Pakistan have reduced their services, Balkh provincial governor's spokesman Munir Farhad said Tuesday. 

He said Turkey and Russia had closed their consulates and their diplomats had left the city.

The Tajik government said Afghan troops were being allowed to cross on humanitarian grounds but the border posts on the Tajik side were in control of Tajik forces and there was no fighting with Taliban from the Tajik side.

The Taliban have made relentless territorial wins since mid-April, when President Joe Biden announced the last 2,500-3,500 US soldiers and 7,000 allied NATO soldiers would leave Afghanistan.

Last week, all US and NATO forces left Bagram Air Base near Kabul, the command centre of anti-Taliban operations, effectively wrapping up their exit after 20 years of military involvement that began in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Most have left quietly already, well before the announced deadline in September. 

The full withdrawal is not expected to be completed until the end of August, and not before an agreement on how to protect Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport is reached.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was “heightened concern” over the fighting but that Russia has no plans to send troops to assist Tajikistan, once a part of the Soviet Union.

“We have repeatedly said many times that after the withdrawal of the Americans and their allies from Afghanistan, the development of the situation in this country is a matter of our heightened concern," Peskov said.

"We’re monitoring it very closely and are noting that destabilisation (of the situation) is taking place, unfortunately.”

READ MORE: More Afghan forces flee to Tajikistan as key districts fall to Taliban

Peace talks

Months-old peace talks being held in Qatar between Taliban and a fractious Afghan government have all but stopped, even as both sides say they want a negotiated end to the decades-long conflict.

With their victories in northern and southern Afghanistan, the Taliban are putting pressure on provincial cities and gaining control of key transportation routes.

The Afghan government has resurrected militias mostly loyal to Kabul-allied warlords but with a history of brutal violence that has raised the specter of civil war, similar to the fighting that devastated Kabul in the early 1990s.

Taliban wins in northern Afghanistan are particularly significant because that part of the country is the traditional stronghold of US-allied warlords and the scene of the Taliban's initial widespread losses in 2001 when the US-led coalition launched its battle to unseat the religious movement.

READ MORE: Afghan Taliban to put forth 'written peace deal' at talks next month