The United Nations begged on Friday for neighboring countries to keep their borders open to allow people to escape the Taliban, and U.N. agencies warned of a growing humanitarian catastrophe amid spreading hunger.

The plea comes as hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will again impose a brutal, repressive government, all but eliminating women's rights and conduct commonplace public executions. 

Afghanistan's government has now effectively lost control of most of Afghanistan to the Taliban, following an eight-day blitz into urban centers by the group.

With just three cities remaining under government control - including the capital of Kabul - thousands of people are making a last ditch attempt to flee the country. 

The insurgents have taken 18 of the country's 34 provincial capitals in recent days, including its second and third-largest cities Herat and Kandahar, and Lashkar Gah.

The Taliban now control more than two-thirds of the country just weeks before the U.S. plans to withdraw its last troops, along with other Western allies.

Pictured: Stranded people crossing the border between Pakistan Afghanistan, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. Thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will again impose a brutal, repressive government after 20 years

Pictured: Stranded people crossing the border between Pakistan Afghanistan, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. Thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will again impose a brutal, repressive government after 20 years

Pictured: Afghan military and officials leave Kandahar city during fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, in Kandahar, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, in the early hours of Thursday, August 12, 2021

Pictured: Afghan military and officials leave Kandahar city during fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, in Kandahar, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, in the early hours of Thursday, August 12, 2021

In this picture taken on August 13, 2021, a Taliban fighter holds a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan's third biggest city, after government forces pulled out the day before following weeks of being under siege

In this picture taken on August 13, 2021, a Taliban fighter holds a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan's third biggest city, after government forces pulled out the day before following weeks of being under siege

As people fled on foot with nothing but the clothes on their back, the nephew of Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani was seen on Instagram taking a different approach - leaving by private jet (pictured). The caption read: 'Moving from one crisis to the other as elegantly as I can'

As people fled on foot with nothing but the clothes on their back, the nephew of Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani was seen on Instagram taking a different approach - leaving by private jet (pictured). The caption read: 'Moving from one crisis to the other as elegantly as I can'

Thousands of Afghans are fleeing the country every day, smugglers have said, mostly on three routes all of which begin in Herat - a smuggling hub. Pictured: The smuggling routes and costs

Thousands of Afghans are fleeing the country every day, smugglers have said, mostly on three routes all of which begin in Herat - a smuggling hub. Pictured: The smuggling routes and costs

Pictures from Friday showed fleeing Afghans entering neighbouring Pakistan after the country re-opened its Chaman border crossing for people who had been otherwise stranded in recent weeks. 

Juma Khan, the border town's deputy commissioner, said the crossing was reopened following talks with the Taliban.

The decision to open the border was made after the United Nations refugee agency called on Afghanistan's neighbours to keep crossings open as the crisis intensifies.

'An inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives. UNHCR stands ready to help national authorities scale up humanitarian responses as needed,' a spokesperson for the agency told a briefing in Geneva.

The World Food Programme sees food shortages in Afghanistan as 'quite dire' and worsening, a spokesperson added, saying the situation had all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe. 

As Western embassies prepare to send in troops to help evacuate staff, the United Nations said its 320 staff members would remain.

'We fear the worst is yet to come and the larger tide of hunger is fast approaching... The situation has all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe,' the World Food Programme's Thomson Phiri told a U.N. briefing.


More than 250,000 people have been forced from their homes since May, 80 percent of them women and children, the U.N. refugee agency's Shabia Mantoo said.

Many reported extortion by armed groups on the way and having to dodge improvised explosive devices along major roads.

Thousands of people are rushing from rural areas to the capital Kabul and other urban centres in search of shelter, another U.N. official said.

'They are sleeping in the open, in parks and public spaces,' Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 'A major concern right now is simply finding shelter for them.'

A World Health Organisation official reported a doubling of trauma cases in the last two to three months in the health facilities it supports. 

She also expressed concerns about shortages of medical supplies and said it was training medical staff on mass casualty management. 

But as people fled on foot with nothing but the clothes on their back, the nephew of Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani was seen on Instagram taking a different approach.

Pakistani soldiers stand guard while stranded people walk towards the Afghan side at a border crossing point, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, August 13, 2021. Pakistan opened its Chaman border crossing for people who had been stranded in recent weeks

Pakistani soldiers stand guard while stranded people walk towards the Afghan side at a border crossing point, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, August 13, 2021. Pakistan opened its Chaman border crossing for people who had been stranded in recent weeks

Pakistani soldiers stand guard while stranded people walk towards the Afghan side at a border crossing point, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021

Pakistani soldiers stand guard while stranded people walk towards the Afghan side at a border crossing point, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021

Stranded people cross the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021

Stranded people cross the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021

Posting to his private Instagram account on Thursday, Sultan Ghani shared pictures of him walking across a runway to a private jet.

'Moving from one crisis to the other as elegantly as I can' his caption read, sparking outrage on social media.

'While Afghanistan is burning & the ppl are suffering across the country because of his uncle's disastrous leadership, posts these photos on his Instagram account,' one user wrote on Twitter while sharing the images of the Sultan and his plane. 

The Taliban insurgency seized Lashkar Gah - the capital of the southern province of Helmand - on Friday, and two afghan lawmakers officials had surrendered the capital of Uruzgan province to the rapidly advancing Taliban.

On Thursday, the group took of Kandahar and Herat, marking the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban, who have taken 12 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals as part of a week-long blitz

'The city looks like a front line, a ghost town,' provincial council member Ghulam Habib Hashimi said of Kandahar via telephone from Herat, a city of about 600,000 people near the border with Iran.

'Families have either left or are hiding in their homes.'

Pictured: A stranded Afghan family waits for the reopening of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 13, 2021

Pictured: A stranded Afghan family waits for the reopening of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 13, 2021

A stranded Afghan national carries his son at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 13, 2021, after the Taliban took control of the Afghan border town in a rapid offensive across the country

A stranded Afghan national carries his son at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 13, 2021, after the Taliban took control of the Afghan border town in a rapid offensive across the country

According to recent UN data , 400,000 people have fled their homes inside Afghanistan since the start of the year, with almost 300,000 of those fleeing since May

According to recent UN data , 400,000 people have fled their homes inside Afghanistan since the start of the year, with almost 300,000 of those fleeing since May

The Taliban has now seized around two thirds of the country from the government in a little over three months

Of Afghanistan's major cities, the government still holds Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border in the east, in addition to Kabul. 

According to recent UN data, 400,000 people have fled their homes inside Afghanistan since the start of the year, with almost 300,000 of those fleeing since May as fighting between the government and Taliban stepped up.

The vast majority of those are still inside the country, the UN says, but with Islamist fighters making rapid gains in almost every region and government forces in retreat, many are looking to leave the country.

Just how many is largely unknown. The UN says just 200 crossed the border into Iran on the weekend just gone, but only counts those who are officially registered as refugees.

Speaking to the MailOnline by phone from Zaranj, one smuggler said: 'I and my team here used to send around 50 or even fewer people to Iran on our pickup trucks each day for years it now stands at 100 or 150 on a good day.

'I should thank Trump, Biden and the Americans. Many of these people are highly educated, sometimes I regret sending them out, but it may save their lives.

'We are responsible for getting these people to Teheran, and our job ends there.

'But I know through talking with many of them that their final destination is not Iran. Many have plans for Europe in their heads. Thousands are being sent out of Afghanistan each day through this city.'

Most migrants make their way to the smuggling hub of Herat - which has come under attack by the Taliban in recent days - before they are either taken north to the Khosan border crossing with Iran, or south to Zaranj - which has also fallen into Taliban hands.

The northern route is the most expensive and also the most dangerous - with migrants forced to swim a river and then crawl for two hours to avoid security cameras - but carries the least risk of getting caught. 

A second route goes from Zaranj directly into a Iran and to a safehouse in Kerman, before a final journey to Tehran.

The third route - the cheapest and most commonly used - goes into Iran via Pakistan, then to Kerman and Tehran. It is also the safest route, but carries the greatest chance of getting caught.

Rapid advances by the Taliban has led to warnings from anti-migrant Turkish opposition that new refugee crisis mirroring 2015 is looming - with opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu saying up to a million Afghans could come.

Frontex, the EU's migration agency, said on Wednesday that migration through the Balkans almost-doubled in the first half of this year compared to last, driven mostly by an increase in Afghans and Syrians. 

That prompted Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi to warned the EU is 'not ready' for another migrant crisis. 

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