Kabul (Afghanistan): Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan’s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over in 90, a U.S. defence official told Reuters on Wednesday (August 11), citing U.S. intelligence, as militants took control of an eighth provincial Afghan capital. The Taliban now control 65% of Afghanistan and have taken or threaten to take 11 provincial capitals, a senior EU official said on Tuesday. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the new assessment of how long Kabul could stand was a result of the rapid gains the Taliban had been making around the country as U.S.-led foreign forces leave. “But this is not a foregone conclusion,” the official added, saying that the Afghan security forces could reverse the momentum by putting up more resistance.
Wednesday’s loss of Faizabad, capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan, was the latest setback for the Afghan government, which has been struggling to stem the momentum of Taliban assaults. It came as President Ashraf Ghani flew in to Mazar-i-Sharif to rally old warlords to the defence of the biggest city in the north as Taliban forces close in. Jawad Mujadidi, a provincial council member from Badakhshan, said the Taliban had laid siege to Faizabad before launching an offensive on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, after hours of heavy fighting the ANDSF retreated,” Mujadidi told Reuters, referring to national security forces. “With the fall of Faizabad the whole of the northeast has come under Taliban control.” Badakhshan borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China.
WATCH: Afghanistan Turmoil: Taliban captures major provincial cities in Afghanistan
The Taliban are battling to defeat the U.S-backed government and reimpose strict Islamic law. The speed of their advance has shocked the government and its allies. U.S. President Joe Biden urged Afghan leaders to fight for their homeland, saying on Tuesday (August 10) he did not regret his decision to withdraw, noting that the United States had spent more than $1 trillion over 20 years and lost thousands of troops. The United States was providing significant air support, food, equipment and salaries to Afghan forces, he said. The United States will complete the withdrawal of its forces this month in exchange for Taliban promises to prevent Afghanistan being used for international terrorism.
The Taliban promised not to attack foreign forces as they withdraw but did not agree to a ceasefire with the government. A commitment by the Taliban to talk peace with the government side has come to nothing as they eye military victory. Some Afghans feel abandoned as the United States and other Western powers withdraw, leaving the Taliban to make their move.
“The U.S. did not provide support … now we see the result,” Dawlat Waziri, a retired general and military analyst, told Reuters.
The Taliban advances have raised fears of the return to power of the hardline militants who emerged in the early 1990s from the chaos of civil war and controlled most of the country from 1996 to 2001, when they were ousted by a U.S.-led campaign for harbouring al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. A new generation of Afghans, who have come of age since 2001, fears that the progress made in areas such as women`s rights and media freedom will be squandered. U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday reports of violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity were emerging, including “deeply disturbing reports” of the summary execution of surrendering government troops. Afghan officials have appealed for pressure on Pakistan to stop Taliban reinforcements and supplies flowing over the border. Pakistan denies backing the Taliban.
The Taliban have captured districts bordering Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan and China, heightening regional security concerns.