US President Joe Biden’s administration anticipates an imminent fall of Afghanistan’s capital, reports The Washington Post, citing talks with senior officials. According to an official, the army now assumes that Kabul will be in the hands of the Taliban within 90 days. Other sources even mentioned only thirty days. In June, the army had assumed a period of at least six months. Last night, the ninth provincial capital fell to the Taliban in a week.
The deteriorating prospects come as the Taliban, emboldened by the departure of the US military, is gaining ground from Afghan government forces faster than expected. More than 65 per cent of the country is now in the hands of the Taliban. Nevertheless, Biden insisted yesterday that his decision to withdraw US troops is not in question.
In a press chat, Biden indicated that the Afghans must find the will to fight. He also pointed out that the government army is more powerful than the Taliban’s troops.
Nine provincial capitals
The Taliban captured the city of Faizabad in the far northeast of Afghanistan last night. It is the nine provincial capital that will fall into their hands in less than a week. This was learned from a local representative.
“Last night, the security forces, who had been fighting the Taliban for several days, were under great pressure. They left Faizabad and retreated to nearby districts. The Taliban have now taken the city. Both camps suffered heavy losses,” Zabihullah Attiq, deputy of Badakhshan province, of which Faizabad is the capital, told the French news agency AFP.
Yesterday, after a short offensive, the Taliban seized the provincial capital of Farah in southwestern Afghanistan. Later in the day, government forces left Pul-e-Khumri, north of the capital, Kabul, without resistance. Aybak, Zaranj, Sar-e-Poel, Taloqan, Lashkar Gah and Kunduz have already fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
It took the radical Islamist movement less than a week to get hold of 9 of the 34 provincial capitals. Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in the north of the country, looks like the next domino to fall, and Kandahar is also under threat. Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled to Kabul, among other places.
With the US military departure being formalized on August 31, US aid to the Afghans has decreased significantly and is now being carried out from afar.
Unless Biden changes policy, the limited US airstrikes now being used against the Taliban are expected to end this month, once the military withdrawal is complete. After that, the Afghan government forces are left to their own devices.
“We are aware of the deteriorating security conditions in parts of the country,” said a Defense Ministry spokesman. “We will continue to coordinate airstrikes with – and in support of – Afghan forces whenever and wherever possible. But as the president made clear, Afghan leaders need to come together now.”
The Afghan government, meanwhile, wants to involve a mediator in the peace negotiations it is currently conducting in Qatar with the Taliban. That is what a member of the Afghan negotiating delegation said today to the television channel Al Jazeera.
According to the delegation member, the desired mediator will have to determine “how serious the intentions of both parties are”. After all, the Taliban would not have “no interest in negotiations, but only want to achieve their goals by force. The international community should put pressure on the Taliban to show sincerity.”
On the other hand, the Taliban spokesman told Al Jazeera that the government initially rejected the principle of a mediator, not the Taliban. He added that the Taliban will be fully committed to the peace talks in Qatar and do not want them to fail.