(The New York Times): The Taliban seized three Afghan cities on Sunday, including the commercial hub of Kunduz, officials said, escalating a sweeping offensive that has claimed five provincial capitals in three days and shown how little control the government has over the country without American military power to protect it. Never before in 20 years of war had the Taliban directly assaulted more than one provincial capital at a time. Kunduz, Sar-i-Pul and Taliqan, all in the north — and even more populous cities are under siege, in a devastating setback for the Afghan government. The fall of these cities is taking place just weeks before U.S. forces are set to complete a total withdrawal from Afghanistan, laying bare a difficult predicament for President Biden.