As foreign troops withdraw, the Taliban have seized parts of Afghan highways and closed in on cities. One arms dealer in the country says they're even buying heavier weaponry.
A U.S.-backed conference with the Taliban and Afghan government was derailed, raising doubts about progress toward a negotiated settlement to end decades of war in Afghanistan.
Lloyd Austin arrived in Kabul on his first visit as defense secretary as the Biden administration discusses when to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan.
The Afghan politician has survived two assassination attempts and is one of four Afghan women negotiating with the Taliban. "The power of words is stronger than the power of bullets," she tells NPR.
In a letter reportedly sent to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. "has not ruled out any option" and asked him to "understand the urgency of my tone."
The two sides have agreed on a way forward for substantive negotiations aimed at ending decades of almost continuous war in the country, representatives said in near-twin tweets.
Some analysts think Kabul is holding out for a possible Joe Biden presidency before trying to strike any substantive deals with the Taliban.