(Kunduz) The Taliban captured two new provincial capitals in Afghanistan on Tuesday, but US President Joe Biden accepted his decision to withdraw US troops and called on government troops to “fight”.
Posted on Aug 10, 2021 at 6:20 am Updated at 2:18 pm
Together with Farah in the west and Pul-e Khumri in the north, the insurgents now control 8 of the 34 Afghan provincial capitals, including 6 of the 9 in the north of the country. And civilians are fleeing en masse from their seemingly inevitable advance.
“The Taliban are now in the city, they hoisted their flags in the central square and in the governor’s office,” said AFP Mamoor Ahmadzai, MP for Baghlan Province, whose capital is Pul-e Khumri, 200 km from Kabul.
After two hours of fighting, the security forces withdrew to a base outside the city on Tuesday evening, he said.
“The Taliban set fire to parts of the city, including two restaurants,” said an official.
The insurgents also took Farah, the capital of the province of the same name, on Tuesday after brief fighting.
“You have taken over the office of governor and police headquarters. The security forces have withdrawn to an army base, ”Provincial Councilor Shahla Abubar told AFP.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgents, confirmed the capture of the two cities on Twitter.
The Taliban launched this offensive in May at the beginning of the final withdrawal of American and foreign forces, but their advance has accelerated in recent days with the capture of several urban centers.
The withdrawal of international forces must be completed by August 31, 20 years after their intervention in the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“I do not regret my decision” to leave Afghanistan, assured US President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
The Afghans “must have the will to fight” and “must fight for themselves, for their nation,” he stressed.
Washington is hiding its anger at the weakness of the Kabul army less and less, which the Americans have been training, financing and equipping for years.
The spokesman for American diplomacy, Ned Price, therefore stressed that the government troops were “far superior in numbers” to the Taliban and had “the potential to cause greater losses”.
“This notion that the Taliban’s advance cannot be stopped does not reflect the reality on the ground,” he said.
Meeting in Doha
The insurgents have chained the conquests since Friday: Zaranj (southwest), Sheberghan (north), stronghold of the famous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostom, Kunduz, the city of the northeast, as well as three other northern capitals, Taloqan, Sar-e-Pul and Aibak.
They also tightened their grip on Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in the north. Should this fall, the government would no longer have control over the entire region, which has traditionally been directed against the Taliban.
There, when they came to power in the 1990s, they encountered the sharpest opposition.
On Tuesday, they attacked neighborhoods on the immediate outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, which India has urged its nationals to leave, but they have been pushed back there, according to an AFP journalist.
While the fighting raged in the north, but also in the south, around Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, two historic strongholds of the insurgents, Doha hosted the first of a series of international meetings on Tuesday with representatives from Qatar, the United States, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, the United Nations and The European Union.
The peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban opened in Qatar last September, as part of the agreement reached in February 2020 between the insurgents and Washington on the full withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
But the discussions stand still.
Although hopes that the talks will lead to a concrete outcome are low, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad should urge the Taliban to “halt their military offensive and negotiate a political deal.”
“They Beat and Loot”
The violence has forced tens of thousands of civilians across the country to flee, with the Taliban charged with numerous atrocities in locations under their control.
“They hit and pillage,” said Rahima, a woman who camped with hundreds of people in a park in Kabul after fleeing Sheberghan Province.
“If there is a young girl or a widow in a family, they take her by force. We fled to protect our honor, ”she added.
In Afghanistan, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 359,000 people have been displaced as a result of the fighting since the beginning of the year.
At least 183 civilians were killed and 1,181 injured, including children, in the cities of Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, Herat (West) and Kunduz in one month, the UN said on Tuesday, stating that there was no trafficking there, only victims, who could be killed are documented.