Most recently, the terrorist movement managed to seize the last standing northern province of Mazar-i-Sharif – a major centre of financial activity in the country. The Taliban* also took over Kandahar – the former capital of its caliphate, which existed prior to the US invasion in 2001.
When the US announced it would be withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, the ability of Kabul to withstand attacks from the Taliban* was among the key concerns of President Joe Biden. But the latter only downplayed these fears, arguing in July that the Afghan Army of 300,000 “well-equipped” soldiers and Air Force pilots could handle the threat of “something like 75,000 Taliban” militants. POTUS also stressed that the terrorist movement’s takeover of Afghanistan was not “inevitable”.
Q: “Do you trust the Taliban?”
President Biden: “Is that a serious question? No, I do not…It’s a silly question. Do I trust the Taliban? No. But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more competent in terms of conducting war.” pic.twitter.com/C6Z82NBwtL
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 8, 2021
Fast forward four weeks, and the Taliban controls the majority, if not all, of the nation’s border. It has seized half of the country’s provinces, including the second and third-largest cities, Kandahar and Herat, and claims to be in charge of one of Afghanistan’s main radio stations, renaming it the “Voice of Sharia”. Some media reports suggest that the Taliban’s troops came within 50 kilometres of Kabul and that the US intelligence community fears it could be “isolated” in a matter of days.
The #Taliban not only seized appr. a hundred US humvees and (MaxxPro) MRAPs at Kunduz airport, but also several US ScanEagle drones.
Billions of US tax payer $ going to Islamist extremists, thanks to the administration’s hasty withdrawal without a peace deal or follow up mission. pic.twitter.com/Fb5MTpdLKK
— Julian Röpcke (@JulianRoepcke) August 12, 2021
Suddenly, the takeover of Afghanistan no longer sounds as unlikely as Biden claimed it to be in July. In a statement on 14 August, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pledged that the instability in the country would be put to an end, but just days prior Kabul’s forces lost Kandahar, the former capital of the Taliban’s caliphate in the 1990s, reportedly by either fleeing from the fighting with the terrorist movement or joining its ranks. Just today, videos emerged suggesting that during their last offensive fighters from the insurgent group seized not only US-supplied weapons, but other equipment as well, such as armoured trucks, drones, and American Black Hawk and Afghan Mi-17 helicopters.
The Biden administration did not provide any extended commentary regarding the Taliban’s recent gains in Afghanistan and the impact of the US withdrawal from the country on the latter’s successes.
“The president is firmly focused on how we can continue to execute an orderly drawdown and protect our men and women serving in Afghanistan. You heard him earlier this week: he does not regret his decision”, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said responding to a relevant question.
The terrorist movement launched an assault on government positions soon after the US and NATO troops initiated their withdrawal. The American troops are expected to finish withdrawing by 31 August. The majority of forces have already been withdrawn, but the Pentagon also plans to evacuate the country’s diplomatic mission, if Kabul is on the verge of being seized by the Taliban. Meanwhile, the said diplomatic mission is ostensibly destroying secret documents that might fall into the insurgent group’s hands.
The US and other countries have demanded the Taliban refrain from violence and resolve its conflict with Kabul at the negotiating table, but these calls have so far gone unheeded.
*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.