Afghanistan | Taliban draw closer to Kabul

(Kabul) Arrived almost at the gates of Kabul on Friday, the Taliban continued their relentless advance into Afghanistan, from where many countries, including the United States, will evacuate their nationals and diplomats in disaster.

Posted on Aug 13, 2021 at 6:33 am Updated at 8:59 pm

Elise BLANCHARD Agence France-Presse

An initial contingent of marines to secure the evacuations arrived at Kabul airport, one of the few cities still in the hands of government forces, and the US embassy in Kabul ordered its staff to be destroyed by the Taliban “for propaganda purposes”.

After Kandahar, the country’s second largest city, the insurgents also captured the city of Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province, just 50 kilometers south of Kabul, and now control almost half of the Afghan provincial capitals in just eight Days has fallen.

Previously they had captured Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province in the south of the country, and Chaghcharan (center), the capital of Ghor Province.

PHOTO GULABUDDIN AMIRI, RELATED PRESS

The Taliban took possession of Ghazni, 150 km southwest of Kabul, on Thursday.

Most of northern, western and southern Afghanistan are now under their control. Kabul, the country’s capital, Mazar-i-Sharif, the major city in the north, and Jalalabad (east) are the only three major cities that are still under state control.

Ismail Khan, 75, one of Afghanistan’s most famous warlords, surrendered on Thursday after the fall of Herat (West) to the Taliban, the country’s third largest city, of which he was the undisputed ruler for decades. The insurgents have promised to keep him safe.

They were well received in Lashkar Gah, a province traditionally acquired by the Taliban, and calm was quickly restored after several days of violent clashes, according to a resident, Abdul Halim.

FRANCE PRESS AGENCY PHOTO

Taliban in the streets of Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan.

No military re-engagement

“Most of the city is in ruins due to the fighting and there is not enough food in the market. However, it still looks like an occupied city, he told AFP.

The Taliban launched their offensive in May when US President Joe Biden confirmed the withdrawal of the last foreign troops from the country, 20 years after their intervention to oust the Taliban over their refusal to appoint Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda leader.

This payout must be completed by August 31st. Joe Biden has not regretted his decision since then, although the rate at which the Afghan army fell apart surprised and disappointed Americans, who had spent more than $ 1 trillion on training and equipment.

Due to the acceleration of events, Washington decided to further reduce its diplomatic presence “in Kabul”. To carry out the evacuation of diplomats, the Pentagon will station 3,000 soldiers at the capital’s airport by the end of the weekend, its spokesman John Kirby said on Friday.

The United States has made it clear that it is ready to air freight “thousands of people a day” while Kabul is under “imminent threat”.

London also announced the relocation of 600 soldiers to help British nationals leave the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated after a crisis meeting that his country wanted to “exert pressure” through diplomatic and political channels, but excluded the possibility of a “military solution”.

Several countries, including the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Spain, also announced on Friday that their presence in the country would be reduced to the bare minimum, as well as repatriation programs for their Afghan workers.

Germany also announced that it would reduce its diplomatic staff “to the absolute minimum”.

Others, including Norway and Denmark, preferred to temporarily close their embassies. Switzerland, which does not have an embassy there, has announced the repatriation of some Swiss employees and around 40 local employees.

The evacuations come as the rebels remain deaf to the diplomatic efforts of the United States and the international community.

Not in the mood for compromises

Three days of international meetings in Doha, Qatar ended on Thursday with no significant progress. In a joint statement, the United States, Pakistan, the European Union and China said they would not recognize a “forcefully imposed” government in Afghanistan.

The Taliban may not be willing to compromise as the authorities offered them on Thursday in the disaster to “share power in exchange for an end to the violence,” a government negotiator said at the Doha talks, who called for anonymity.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has so far rejected calls for an unelected provisional government to be formed with the involvement of the Taliban.

In Washington, President Biden comes under opposition pressure as the planned evacuation of diplomatic personnel brings back painful memories of the 1975 fall of Saigon, Vietnam.

“Afghanistan is heading for a huge disaster that could have been foreseen and avoided,” said Senate Republican Chairman Mitch McConnell on Thursday.

The advance of the Taliban comes at a high human cost. According to the United Nations, at least 183 civilians were killed and 1,181 injured, including children, in Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, Herat and Kunduz in one month.

PHOTO SAJJAD HUSSAIN, FRANCE PRESS AGENCY

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “appalled” by reports of violations of Afghan women’s rights.

“It is especially terrifying and heartbreaking to see the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being stolen from them,” he said.

On Friday, the Canadian government said it was ready to accept 20,000 Afghan refugees under a new immigration program that targets “the most vulnerable”, including women leaders, human rights defenders, religious minorities, persecuted journalists and members of the LGBTQI community.

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