ISLAMABAD – Fierce fighting continues in Afghanistan, where officials said on Tuesday that security forces had reversed some recent advances by the Taliban, as the US and NATO allies ended two decades of military presence in the country was.
Taliban insurgents have dramatically expanded their area of control as the process of formally withdrawing foreign forces began on May 1, capturing nearly 60 districts and inflicting heavy casualties on US-trained Afghan security forces.
According to Deborah Lyons, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, “Most of the districts are surrounded by provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban may be trying to take these capitals themselves and the entirety of foreign forces.” are setting themselves up to take the way back.” Unama).
“We must accept the reality – the heightened conflict in Afghanistan means increased insecurity for many other countries near and far,” Lyons told a UN Security Council meeting in New York on Tuesday.
Rebel gains have fueled fears that the Taliban’s return to power is inevitable after all international troops leave Afghanistan by the September 11 deadline.
Washington reaffirmed Monday, however, that the US military withdrawal was still on pace to be finished in line with President Joe Biden’s orders.
“We will complete the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan, except those left to protect the diplomatic presence, and this will be done before the beginning of September,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters.
“Those two things are constant and will not change,” he said.
The US military said last week the withdrawal was more than halfway through.
Kirby also said, however, that US military leaders are closely studying and watching the emerging Afghan situation if it requires “a change in the pace or scope and scale of the regress”.
“We are considering several options. I’m not at liberty to confirm anything specific right now. But, again, our support for Afghan forces once the retrograde is completed will be largely financial,” Kirby insisted.
Afghan officials said on Tuesday that government security forces repulsed the Taliban from several districts in the northern and northeastern provinces of Balkh, Baglan and Kunduz during overnight fighting, killing dozens of insurgents.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid dismissed the official claims as propaganda. He wrote on Twitter that his group has maintained control over all the recently captured districts.
It was not possible to seek independent verification of either statement, and both sides often issued heightened claims about battlefield activities.
Residents of troubled Kunduz told VOA on Tuesday that the Taliban have captured the Sher Khan dry port on the country’s border with Tajikistan that serves as a major trade route.
Ajmal Omar Shinwari, the newly appointed spokesman for the Afghan security sector, told a news conference in Kabul that the government was committed to regaining all lost districts.
Shinwari said a comprehensive plan had been worked out to manage security across Afghanistan, noting that the government would need more than a week to implement the plan.
More than half of the 407 Afghan districts in the country’s 34 provinces are controlled or threatened by the Taliban.
The escalation in Taliban attacks has prompted Afghan officials to call on civilians and former anti-Taliban militias to take up arms in support of government forces to help drive the insurgents out of their territories. This, in turn, is raising fears of another round of civil war that gripped Afghanistan in the 1990s and enabled the Islamic Taliban to seize power in Kabul.
The Afghan army has for years relied on close US air support to halt rebel advances, but that cover is no longer available to them.
Jonathan Schroden, military operations analyst at the US-based research and analysis organization Center for Naval Analysis, said the Taliban’s military push is not surprising.
“It makes sense for them to strategically test Afghan security forces to see how they perform in the absence of US support,” he told the VOA.
“His success in dominating rural districts has exceeded the predictions of most people and his presence at the gates of some provincial capitals is concerning.”
Jonathan noted, however, that the Taliban would find it much more difficult to attack, capture and hold provincial capitals than to eliminate lightly guarded countryside. “And that’s where Afghan security forces will have to dig in and make their stand.”
Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani and the chairman of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah, along with other senior officials, will travel to Washington this week for an important meeting with President Biden on Friday at the White House.
Ghani’s aides said that during their first one-on-one meeting with Biden, Afghan leaders would discuss continued aid for Afghan forces, among other issues.
The White House said on Sunday that Biden “looks forward to welcoming” Afghan leaders and would reassure them of US diplomatic, economic and humanitarian support for the beleaguered country as the decline continues.
“The visit of President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan as the military decline continues,” it said.
The US-led military drawdown is a product of a February 2020 deal that Washington negotiated with the Taliban to end what has been the longest war in US history, costing more than $2 trillion and involving more than 2,400 US troops. ‘s life.
The agreement encouraged the Taliban to begin direct talks with representatives of the Afghan government in Qatar’s capital Doha last September to arrange a peace deal to end the war between Afghan adversaries. But those talks have met with little success, nor have they reduced violence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban currently controls 124 Afghan districts, while 186 are fighting, according to long war journal Ongoing study of the security situation in Afghanistan. The project is part of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Ghani warned on Tuesday that the Taliban were making a “strategic mistake” in escalating the violence rather than seeking a political solution through the Doha dialogue process.
“If Afghanistan is to be engulfed in intense conflict, no one in the region will be spared,” Ghani told an international conference via a video link. “The consequences will spread, and we need to understand that type of threat to ourselves. Well, and our collective interest very clearly.”
The Afghan president reiterated that he is not interested in power and is willing to hold early elections to ensure an “orderly succession” to promote political reconciliation with the Taliban.
“I once again call on the Taliban to accept the will of the people as the injection magnetism of Almighty God that we must decide collectively and move forward together,” Ghani said.
The Islamist insurgent group has previously rejected Ghani’s such proposals, dismissing him and his administration as a consequence of the US occupation of Afghanistan.