Taliban claim to have captured Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city

(Herat) The Taliban, who chain major conquests, claimed on Friday they captured Afghanistan’s second largest city, Kandahar, after moving closer to Kabul, where the United States decided to return thousands of troops to officially evacuate its diplomats .

Posted on Aug 12, 2021 at 6:52 am Updated Aug 13, 2021 at 12:20 pm

“Kandahar is totally occupied. The mujahideen have reached Martyrs’ Square in the city, ”tweeted a spokesman for an official Taliban account.

A local resident confirmed to AFP that the government forces had apparently withdrawn to positions outside of Kandahar, the capital of the southern province of the same name.

If his case is confirmed, after which on Thursday the third largest city in the country, Herat in the west, and Ghazni, just 150 km southwest of Kabul, in quick succession, only the capital and a few others would remain under the control of the Afghan government.

The Taliban also captured Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, on Friday after allowing the army and political and administrative officials to evacuate the city, the source said.

“Lashkar Gah has been evacuated. They signed a 48-hour truce to “evacuate the army and civilian officials,” a senior security official told AFP. The Taliban had previously claimed the city.

The Taliban also took Chaghcharan, the capital of Ghor province, in the center of the country on Friday morning without resistance, governor’s spokesman Zalmai Karimi told AFP news agency.

Because of the “acceleration” of this advance, Washington decided to further reduce its “diplomatic presence” in Kabul “in the coming weeks,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

8,000 soldiers remobilized

To carry out this evacuation of American diplomats, the Pentagon will station 3,000 soldiers at the capital’s international airport, said its spokesman, John Kirby. Thousands more are being sent to Qatar for technical and logistical support, while 3,500 to 4,000 are being prepositioned in Kuwait to deal with a possible deterioration in the situation.

A total of almost 8,000 American soldiers will be remobilized, and this with the complete withdrawal of US troops and the international coalition from Afghanistan, which must end by August 31 at the latest.

London also announced the relocation of 600 soldiers to help British nationals exit Afghanistan.

“This is not a military resumption of the conflict,” assured US diplomacy, while the Pentagon said it would not use this airport to attack the Taliban.

But this massive relocation – there were only 650 US soldiers in the whole country – can be interpreted as a message to the insurgents not to attack Kabul and its airport.

These evacuations come as the rebels, deaf to diplomatic warnings from the United States and the international community, continue to advance at breakneck speed.

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.

“Power sharing”

But the Afghan government has now lost control of most of the areas in northern, southern and western Afghanistan. Within a week, the Taliban took control of 13 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, and more appear to be on the verge of collapse.

At this stage they risk not being prepared to compromise at all if the authorities have offered them “to share power in exchange for an end to the violence” in the event of a disaster, according to a government negotiator 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. But its turnaround will likely be very late.

“Afghanistan is heading for a huge catastrophe that could have been foreseen and avoided,” said Senate Republican Chairman Mitch McConnell on Thursday, criticizing President Joe Biden’s “dangerous policies”.

In Herat, 150 km from the Iranian border and the capital of the province of the same name, the insurgents “took everything with them,” a senior security officer told the AFP news agency on Thursday. The Afghan armed forces had withdrawn “to prevent further damage”.

The Taliban “hoist their flags all over the city,” a resident Masoom Jan told AFP, saying people were “surprised”. “We’re really scared, we’re trapped, we can’t even leave town in the middle of the night. “.

An AFP correspondent reported that the Taliban hoisted their flag over Herat police headquarters at the end of the day. They did not encounter any resistance.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the city’s capture on Twitter, saying soldiers “gave up arms and joined the group”.

The government today recognized the fall of Ghazni, the provincial capital closest to Kabul, which the insurgents have captured since their offensive began in early May, when international retreat began. “The enemy is in control of Ghazni. accepted […] There is fighting and resistance, ”said Mirwais Stanikzai, Interior Ministry spokesman.

Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis province near Herat, was also arrested, according to a security source.

The fighting across the country has had a major impact on civilians. At least 183 civilians, including children, were killed in Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, Herat and Kunduz in one month.

Many civilians have poured into Kabul in the past few days, where a serious humanitarian crisis looms. They are now trying to survive in dire straits in parks or on vacant lots.

International troops must have left Afghanistan by August 31, twenty years after their intervention to oust the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Trump blames Biden for Taliban push

Former US President Donald Trump on Thursday blamed his successor Joe Biden for the Taliban’s military advances in Afghanistan and said the current situation was “unacceptable.”

“If I were president now, the world would know that our withdrawal from Afghanistan is conditional,” Trump said in a statement.

“It would have been a very different withdrawal and a much more successful withdrawal, and the Taliban knew that better than anyone,” he added.

“I personally had talks with Taliban leaders who understood that what they are doing today would not have been tolerated,” he said.

Donald Trump, who lost the November 2020 election but remains a force within the Republican Party, did not say how he prevented the insurgents from advancing.

Under his authority, the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban on February 29, 2020, in which Washington undertook to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan before May 1, 2021.

In return, the Taliban pledged to enter into peace negotiations with the Afghan government, not to attack the American armed forces or their interests in Afghanistan, and to sever all ties with Al-Qaeda.

Following the signing of this agreement, the Trump administration greatly reduced the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and promised to meet the May 1 deadline for a full withdrawal from the country.

The downsizing of the US military in Afghanistan continued after the November election, and when Mr Biden took office on January 20, there were only 2,500 US soldiers and 16,000 civilian auxiliaries in the country.

Joe Biden suspended withdrawal operations upon arrival at the White House to give himself time to analyze the situation and in April confirmed the full military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The date had been postponed to September 11th and then to August 31st.

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