Monday, November 29

Fear spreads in Afghanistan: “No one helped us stop the Taliban” | International


Columns of smoke after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kandahar on Thursday.
Columns of smoke after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kandahar on Thursday.Sidiqullah Khan / AP

The feeling of panic is spreading through Afghanistan at the inexorable and brilliant advance of the Taliban who, after important conquests both in the north and in the south, are increasingly tightening the siege on Kabul. Thousands of civilians across the country are fleeing their homes as insurgents score victories, such as those in Kandahar and Herat, the country’s second and third cities. Many come to Kabul, where they sleep outdoors, in parks and on sidewalks. Looking at them, it is difficult for residents not to think that something similar may be about to happen to them. “We are concerned that there is a power vacuum, infighting, increased crime, because the government is weak and cannot even defend small towns,” laments Rasool Dad, a 52-year-old baker from Kabul.

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While he was attending his small business this Friday, on the outskirts of the city the first troops sent by the United States were expected to safely evacuate almost the entirety of its Embassy in the face of the inexorable Taliban advance. Only three major cities (the capital, Jalalabad and Mazar-i-Sharif) remain under government control, and the latter has been under siege by fundamentalists for days. After the fall of Lashkar Gah (Helmand) and Kandahar, this Friday, the group controls the entire south, which is home to the traditional fiefdoms of their ethnic group, the Pashtun, a true symbol of the Taliban resurgence.

Government forces appear close to collapse. The latest reports from Washington on the ground are increasingly pessimistic and estimate that the government may fall in less than a month. “The Taliban outnumbered our troops, help from Kabul never came, or air support. Nobody helped us stop the Taliban. And now they control a key place to get to the capital, ”laments Homa Ahmadi by phone, a deputy from the Logar province, in the center of the country, whose capital, Pul-e-Alam, was taken this Friday.

The city was conquered after days of fierce fighting. The militia took hostage the governor and the head of the spy agency, along with hundreds of soldiers. “They fought to the end,” says Ahmadi. In an image on social networks, the governor, surrounded by armed men, could be seen leaving the building, after allegedly surrendering. The Afghan government declined to comment on the loss of Logar, which is another severe setback. The conquest has come despite President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to provide arms and money to mobilize private militias to stop the Taliban, as Afghan troops have failed in their attempt to stop the Taliban even though they have had air support from US troops, although less than a year ago.

The offensive has accelerated to almost three weeks after the withdrawal of US troops was completed, at the end of August, two decades after the invasion that in 2001 overthrew the Taliban regime that ruled the country following the harshest interpretation and uncompromising of the Qur’an. The taking of Herat on Thursday was a blow to the Afghan authorities. “We are concerned about what will happen. The government doesn’t seem able to stop them, ”says Najbibullah, a resident. “Here it is now calm, but I fear it is the silence that precedes something bad. We don’t want any more wars. We Afghans have already suffered a lot, ”he says.

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Some cities have fallen to the Taliban without much resistance. The police detained the governor of Ghazni, Mohammad Daud, accused of turning over the city, located 150 kilometers from Kabul and key to access the capital by road, which fell into the hands of the Taliban on Thursday.

Local sources claim that hundreds of Afghan Army soldiers have surrendered in Lashkar Gah and Herat, where a prominent local leader, Ismail Khan, who led an anti-insurgent resistance force, was captured by the Taliban. “We ask that they treat people well, that we can all live a comfortable life,” Kahn said in a video released by the militia in which he was seen sitting in a car after being detained. The fighting, he said, must end.

Herat is a city that is located on the border with Iran and Turkmenistan and its conquest will allow the Taliban to open a supply route to take their fighters north.

Control

The rapid advance of the Taliban, especially since last week, has taken many by surprise and rekindles concern that Islamists will regain control of the country as they did in the 1990s.

As the Taliban gain ground, the United States has redoubled efforts to secure a peace agreement between the parties at the negotiating table in Qatar that ends the fighting. The US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in a series of tweets after two days of intense contacts it was necessary to reach an agreement. “Any government that is imposed by force will be considered an outcast,” he warned.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have been displaced by the wave of war in recent weeks. After a prolonged stalemate on the battlefield, the United States and the Taliban reached an agreement in February 2020 for foreign troops to leave last May.

But the new administration in Washington unilaterally extended the troop presence until the end of August. Many Afghans and foreigners blame the United States for leaving the country without the Taliban and Kabul reaching an agreement first. There is a fear that in the absence of reconciliation and once the troops are completely gone, Afghanistan will slide into the hole of a new civil war.




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