Afghan President Ashraf Ghani flew to the besieged northern city of Mazar-e Sharif Wednesday morning.  Meanwhile, the Taliban militants have taken more than a quarter of the country's provincial capitals in less than a week.

Ghani’s visit was immediately overshadowed by the mass surrender of hundreds of Afghan soldiers in nearby Kunduz, along with the overnight capture of Faizabad, the capital of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province.  Faizabad has become the ninth provincial capital to be overrun since last Friday.

In Mazar-e Sharif, President Ghani reportedly held talks with long-time local strongman Ata Mohammad Noor and infamous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum about the defense of the city, as Taliban militants inched closer to its outskirts.

Dustum arrived in Mazar-e Sharif Tuesday night.  TRT World says that after arriving in Mazar-e Sharif, Dostum issued a warning to the approaching Taliban.  "The Taliban never learn from the past," he told reporters, vowing to kill the Taliban militants.

Dostum reportedly stands accused of massacring hundreds, if not thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war during the US-backed operations in 2001 that toppled the hardline Islamists' rule over the country.

Experts note that the loss of Mazar-e Sharif would be a catastrophic blow to the Kabul government and represent the complete collapse of its control over the north – an anti-Taliban stronghold. 

Meanwhile, the Washington Post says the Taliban's quick succession of gains has prompted US officials to warn the collapse of the Afghan capital, Kabul, could happen sooner than expected.  

One unnamed official told the Washington Post that the US military now thinks that collapse "could occur within 90 days."

This represents a revision from an earlier intelligence assessment, predicting the capital could fall into the hands of the Taliban within six to 12 months, the report stated.

Other officials told the Washington Post that Kabul could fall within one month.