As Taliban invade more cities, Afghanistan faces increasingly scarce options

Advertisement



Kabul
CNN

In less than a week, the Taliban invaded a quarter of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals in a vast expanse of territory across the north of the country. The security situation here is deteriorating faster than almost everyone expected – with the possible exception of the Taliban themselves.

Ten provincial capitals have now fallen to the insurgent group – in several cases with minimal resistance from Afghan security forces. The Taliban now control territory they could not control when they were in power between 1996 and 2001.

CNN saw a graphic example of declining morale in some army units during a visit to the now fallen town of Ghazni, three hours from Kabul. A group of soldiers who had been targeted by Taliban sniper fire simply fled their base, reported a passing car and drove off.

A Taliban flag is seen on a plinth with people gathered around the main square in the town of Pul-e-Khumri on August 11, 2021 after the Taliban captured Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province.
Advertisement

AFP / Getty Images

A Taliban flag is seen on a plinth with people gathered around the main square in the town of Pul-e-Khumri on August 11, 2021 after the Taliban captured Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province.

When CNN returned to the same base the next day, some soldiers had donned civilian clothes – a clear sign of their fear of the Taliban, who on Thursday morning seized control of Ghazni.

A video from Kunduz Air Base in the north on Wednesday showed scores of soldiers surrendering without uniforms.

Security forces in many parts of the country appear overwhelmed – fearing assassinations or car bombs, and the relentless Taliban offensive that forces the government to choose what to defend and what to surrender. The best troops in Afghanistan, the US-trained commandos, are overwhelmed.

In addition to the provincial capitals already fallen, a dozen others are under imminent threat, surrounded and linked to Kabul only by air.

CNN visited Kandahar – the second largest city in Afghanistan – last week. Its defenders were under siege. They did not know when or if they would receive reinforcements. The pressure has only increased since then.

Afghan security forces fight the Taliban near the Torkham border point between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Nangarhar province on July 23, 2021.

Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Afghan security forces fight the Taliban near the Torkham border point between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Nangarhar province on July 23, 2021.

The Taliban said on Wednesday they had taken control of Kandahar City’s main prison and released around 1,000 inmates. They did the same elsewhere, often replenishing their ranks in the process. A government spokesperson admitted that the prison fell and said most of the detainees were criminals.

A few hundred yards from the prison, a wedding hall that CNN visited that was a frontline position for Afghan commandos just days ago is now under Taliban control, according to a member of the Kandahari parliament. .

By capturing police and military bases, the Taliban acquired armored vehicles, Humvees and heavy weapons as well as dozens of ubiquitous pickup trucks. A steady stream of captured vehicles, many of which were supplied by the United States, left the Kunduz base on Wednesday. One of the rebels could be heard saying that the weapons they had seized were sufficient for all the Mujahedin in Afghanistan.

Faced with the Taliban’s advances, there does not seem to be a coherent strategy to reverse the trend. The loss of life is staggering, with 6,000 dead since mid-April due to the unrest. There is talk of a reshuffle of senior military commanders. President Ashraf Ghani visited the town of Mazar-e-Sharif – one of the very few in the north still in government hands – on Wednesday to push his call for civilians to join a “popular uprising” and to fight the Taliban.

One of the Afghan warlords accompanying him was Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum. He was defiant, claiming that the Taliban had “moved north several times, and they were trapped, and with the will of God this time as well.”

Displaced Afghans arrive at a makeshift camp in Kabul on August 10, 2021.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Displaced Afghans arrive at a makeshift camp in Kabul on August 10, 2021.

“Escape from the north is not an easy task,” he said.

Courageous words, but for now the Taliban do not need to flee the north. It meets little resistance: the greatest threat seems to come from sporadic airstrikes – some of them carried out by American bombers.

One way or another, the Afghan government must find a strategy to reverse the trend. There is certainly some resentment here that the US withdrawal has been so swift and its influence over the Taliban in the Doha talks has been so weak. As the Taliban engulf the territory, they have even less incentive to negotiate.

The overwhelming feeling of people who find themselves in areas still controlled by the government is fear. Kabul may feel safe at the moment, but it might not last long. The latest US intelligence assessment is that the Taliban could overthrow government forces within months.

There is little evidence on the ground – in Kandahar or Ghazni – to contradict this assessment.

You Can Read Also

Entertainment News

Advertisement

Malek

মন্তব্য করুন

আপনার ই-মেইল এ্যাড্রেস প্রকাশিত হবে না। * চিহ্নিত বিষয়গুলো আবশ্যক।