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The conflict in Afghanistan is escalating amid the ongoing withdrawal of US troops from the country, raising the prospect of a new rise of the Taliban.*
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has pledged to prevent further instability in his country in the face of the Taliban’s ongoing offensive.
“As your president, my focus is on preventing further instability, violence and displacement of my people”, he said during an address to the nation on Saturday, stressing that under the current situation, remobilising the Afghan security and defence forces remains the government’s top priority.
He also said that the government had begun “extensive consultations [on the situation in Afghanistan] at home and abroad” and that the results “will be shared with the public soon”.
The Afghan president expressed hope that the international community will “stand in support” of Kabul’s efforts to stop the violence.
Taliban Makes More Territorial Gains
The address comes as the Taliban announced the capture of Sharana, the capital of the southeastern Afghan province of Paktika, on Saturday. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated that the building of the governor’s administration, the police headquarters, and other public buildings were now under the control of the Taliban.
On Friday, the militant group said that it had seized the capital of Logar province, Pol-e Alam, located some 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Kabul.
This followed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging the militants to immediately end their offensive in Afghanistan and sit down for talks.
“I call on the Taliban to immediately halt the offensive and to negotiate in good faith in the interest of Afghanistan and its people”, Guterres said in a statement on Friday.
In a separate development on Friday, the White House said that President Joe Biden had spoken with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan about the ongoing drawdown of US civilian personnel from Afghanistan.
The development was preceded by a decision by the Biden administration on Thursday to deploy 3,000 US troops to Kabul in order to help evacuate Americans at the US Embassy and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants alike.
Defence Department spokesperson John Kirby said earlier on Friday that the United States does not expect to have more than 1,000 troops remaining in the country to support the diplomatic mission once the evacuation mission has been complete. Kirby added that the Taliban appears to be trying to “isolate” Kabul in an attempt to get the city to surrender with relatively little bloodshed, like they did with many provincial capitals in the country.
The Taliban have ramped up military activities and seized vast territories of the north and west of Afghanistan as well as almost 20 provincial capitals recently amid the ongoing withdrawal of US troops from the country.
* The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and a spate of other countries