Another group of Afghan government soldiers has fled across the border into Tajikistan as Taliban militants press an offensive across swaths of northern Afghanistan.
Tajikistan’s border service said that 17 Afghan soldiers fled into the country on June 27 after Taliban militants attacked a border checkpoint located in the town of Chukchuk, in the Kaldor district in Balkh Province, Tajikistan's state media reported.
"The Tajik border guards, guided by the principles of humanism and good neighborliness, allowed the Afghan military who broke through the state border to freely enter their territory," Khovar state media said.
The Taliban have taken control of dozens of districts from government forces in recent weeks as U.S.-led international forces withdraw from Afghanistan ahead of a self-imposed September 11 deadline.
On June 27, Taliban militants captured more than 50 members of the country’s security force in the central province of Maidan Wardak, a senior police commander told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan.
In the past week, the Taliban have seized Afghanistan's main border crossing with Tajikistan, and pressed an offensive on the northern cities of Kunduz and Mazar-e Sharif.
The capture of the border crossing sent 134 Afghan soldiers fleeing into Tajikistan.
Separately, Uzbekistan said 53 Afghan troops and allied militia fighters also fled into Uzbekistan on June 23.
The developments in northern Afghanistan have caused alarm across bordering states Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
Tajik authorities say that they are preparing for a possible influx of refugees, while Uzbekistan last week announced military drills along the border.
The UN special envoy on Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, said last week that the Taliban have overrun more than 50 of the country's 370 districts since May, warning that increased conflict "means increased insecurity for many other countries, near and far."
However, the Afghan government called the fall of the districts a tactical retreat and said that it had recaptured more than 10 districts from the insurgents in recent days.
U.S. President Joe Biden told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, at the White House on June 25 that "we’re going to stick with you and we’re going to do our best to see to it you have the tools you need.”
But "Afghans are going to have to decide their future," he added.