KABUL, Afghanistan — An important city in Afghanistan’s south was in danger of falling to the Taliban on Saturday as their fighters pushed toward its center despite concerted American and Afghan airstrikes in recent days.

Reports from Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand, a province where the Taliban already controlled much of the territory before their recent offensive, were dire: People were fleeing their homes, a hospital in the city had been bombed, and government reinforcements were only now arriving after days of delays.

“We are just waiting for the Taliban to arrive — there is no expectation that the government will be able to protect the city any more,” said Mohammadullah Barak, a resident.

What comes next in Lashkar Gah is anything but certain — the city has been on the brink of a Taliban takeover off and on for more than a decade. But if the insurgent group seizes the city this time it will be the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since 2016.

highest number recorded for the May-to-June period since the United Nations began monitoring these casualties in 2009. At least 100,000 more have been displaced from their homes.

On Saturday, fighting between insurgent and government forces around Herat city, a traditionally safe area in the country’s west, edged dangerously close to its periphery. Many shops were

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