While the Taliban drastically expand their territorial gains, the US proposes a slower withdrawal of Afghans | Voice of america
ISLAMABAD – Fierce fighting continues across Afghanistan, where officials reported Tuesday that security forces had reversed some of the Taliban’s recent advances as U.S. and NATO allies have two decades of military presence in the country.
Taliban insurgents have dramatically expanded their area of control since the foreign troop withdrawal process officially began on May 1, with around 60 districts overrun and heavy losses inflicted on US-trained Afghan security forces.
Insurgent gains have fueled fears that a return of the Taliban to power will be inevitable after all international soldiers have left Afghanistan by September 11th.
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However, Washington reiterated on Monday that US troop withdrawal was still completed in accordance with President Joe Biden’s instructions.
“We will complete the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan, with the exception of those left to protect the diplomatic presence, and that it will be done before the beginning of September,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.
“Those two things are constant and would not change,” he said.
The U.S. military said last week the withdrawal was more than halfway through.
However, Kirby also said American military leaders are studying the looming Afghan situation closely and investigating if it requires “changes in the pace or the scope and extent of the retrograde process.”
“We are examining various options. I am currently not at liberty to confirm a specific one. But here, too, our support for the Afghan armed forces after the regression is over will be largely financial, ”emphasized Kirby.
Afghan authorities said Tuesday that government security forces evicted the Taliban from several districts in the northern and northeastern provinces of Balkh, Baghlan and Kunduz and killed dozens of insurgents during nighttime fighting.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid dismissed official claims as propaganda. He wrote on Twitter that his group retained control of all of the recently captured boroughs.
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Residents of embattled Kunduz told VOA Tuesday that the Taliban had taken control of the Sher Khan dry port on the country’s border with Tajikistan, which serves as an important trade route.
Ajmal Omar Shinwari, a newly appointed Afghan security sector spokesman, told a press conference in Kabul that the government was determined to retake all the lost districts.
Shinwari said a comprehensive plan had been drawn up to manage security across Afghanistan and noted that it would take the government more than a week to implement the plan.
More than half of 407 Afghan districts in the country’s 34 provinces are controlled or threatened by the Taliban.
The rise in Taliban attacks has led Afghan officials to call on civilians and former anti-Taliban militias to collect weapons in order to assist government forces in driving the insurgents from their areas. This in turn fuels fears of another round of civil war that gripped Afghanistan in the 1990s and enabled the Islamist Taliban to seize power in Kabul.
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For years, the Afghan armed forces have relied on close US air support to contain the insurgents’ advances, but this cover is no longer available to them.
Jonathan Schroden, a military operations analyst at the US research and analytics organization Center for Naval Analyzes, said the Taliban’s military advance was not surprising.
“It makes strategic sense for them to test the Afghan security forces to see how they function without US support,” he told VOA.
“Their success in rural district relocation has exceeded most people’s predictions, and their presence at the gates of some provincial capitals is worrying.”
Jonathan noted, however, that attacking, capturing and holding provincial capitals will likely be much more difficult for the Taliban than overrun lightly defended rural areas. “And that’s where the Afghan security forces have to intervene and take a stand.”
Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani and chairman of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, along with other senior officials, will travel to Washington this week for a crucial meeting with President Biden at the White House.
Ghani’s advisors said the Afghan leader’s first face-to-face meeting with Biden will talk about further support for the Afghan armed forces, among other things.
The White House said Sunday Biden looks forward to welcoming Afghan leaders and will assure them of US diplomatic, economic and humanitarian assistance to the troubled country as the retreat continues.
“The visit of President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan in the wake of the ongoing military withdrawal, ”it said.
The US-led military retreat is the result of a deal that Washington negotiated with the Taliban in February 2020 to end the longest war in US history, which cost more than $ 2 trillion and more than 2,400 American soldiers cost life.
The agreement also encouraged the Taliban to hold direct talks with Afghan government officials last September in Doha, the capital of Qatar, with a view to agreeing a peace deal to end the war between Afghan opponents. But these negotiations have had little success and have not alleviated the violence in Afghanistan.