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World Taliban say they hold 80 per cent of Afghanistan as US announces 650 troops will remain after withdrawal

04:58  26 june  2021
04:58  26 june  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

'With masters defeated, the slaves can't fight': Taliban eye victory after US exit

  'With masters defeated, the slaves can't fight': Taliban eye victory after US exit 'With masters defeated, the slaves can't fight': Taliban eye victory after US exitUnprecedented peace talks between the insurgents and Afghan government continue to flutter, and as violence rages across Afghanistan, militants claim to have taken nearly 30 districts since the US began its final troop withdrawal in early May.

Roughly 650 US troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main American military force completes its withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks, US officials have said.

In addition, several hundred American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to assist Turkish troops providing security, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Officials said the US expects to have most troops out by July 4, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders set months ago.

But as foreign forces leave, the Taliban have been taking back towns and districts throughout the country at a rapid rate, fuelling fears that the Afghan government and its military could collapse in a matter of months.

'Sangorians' take a page from insurgent playbook in fight against Taliban

  'Sangorians' take a page from insurgent playbook in fight against Taliban They name themselves after a Turkish soap opera, count former Taliban insurgents among their ranks and dress like their enemies, but the shadowy "Sangorians" militiamen are among the fiercest forces on the Afghan battlefield. Enter the Sangorians, who took their name from a popular Turkish television serial about undercover operatives, and whom local media reports say the Taliban particularly loathe as many of the militiamen were former insurgents.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, told the ABC they are now in control of 163 districts.

"There are other districts where only the centre is held by the Kabul administration, but the surrounding areas are in our control," said Mr Shaheen, who is also a member of the Taliban negotiations team in Doha.

"So, calculating all of them, it is more than 80 per cent of the territory being held by our forces."

There was no way to immediately verify territorial gains, and some areas often change hands back and forth.

Most analysts tracking the front lines say the Taliban control or hold sway in roughly half the country, mostly in rural areas.

The Afghan government and embassy in Canberra did not respond to requests for comment.

Former president Karzai says US failed in Afghanistan

  Former president Karzai says US failed in Afghanistan Karzai says US and NATO troops set to fully withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years are leaving behind a disaster. “The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear objective of fighting extremism and bringing stability … but extremism is at the highest point today. So they have failed,” he said. He said their legacy is a war-ravaged nation in “total disgrace and disaster”. “We recognise as Afghans all our failures, but what about the bigger forces and powers who came here for exactly that purpose? Where are they leaving us now?” he asked and answered: “In total disgrace and disaster.

"For the Taliban to continue this intensive military campaign would be a tragic course of action," Deborah Lyons, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

She said the group was positioning itself to seize regional capitals "once foreign forces are fully withdrawn".

"There's really no denying the size and the speed of the kind of territorial losses the government has suffered," Andrew Watkins of the International Crisis Group told AFP.

"But the fall of Kabul is not imminent. The Taliban is not an unstoppable military juggernaut."

The Taliban have posted videos on Twitter of Afghan soldiers defecting and joining their ranks, but Taliban fighters have also handed over weapons to the government in Herat.

Militia groups have also pledged to fight alongside Afghan forces in Kabul and some northern provinces.

Most of the 4,000 troops have already withdrawn over the past few months, well before US president Joe Biden's September 11 deadline.

Taliban Aiming to Take Afghanistan Areas After US Troops are Withdrawn, UN Envoy Says

  Taliban Aiming to Take Afghanistan Areas After US Troops are Withdrawn, UN Envoy Says The Taliban may be aiming to claim Afghanistan's provincial capitals once U.S. military forces are withdrawn by Sept. 11, U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons said.When Biden announced the remaining troops' departure in April, he claimed that the U.S. had accomplished its goals of weakening Al-Qaida and fighting other terrorist threats. However, Lyons cited rising violence from the Taliban in the past year and recent escalating military activity from the group as cause for concern, the Associated Press reported.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the High Council for National Reconciliation, will meet with Mr Biden at the White House on Friday (local time).

The two Afghan leaders will also meet at the Pentagon with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and possibly other administration officials, the Pentagon announced.

Taliban say they are committed to peace talks

Officials said NATO allies were also very close to being completely out of Afghanistan.

The remaining 650 US troops will provide security for the US Embassy and some ongoing support at the airport.

Officials said the US has agreed to leave a C-RAM — or Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar system — at the airport, as well as troops to operate it, as part of an agreement with Turkey. The US also plans to leave aircrew for helicopter support at the airport.

Political talks between the government and the Taliban largely stalled after an initial US withdrawal date of May 1, which was set by the Trump administration, was delayed by more than four months.

But Mr Shaheen told the ABC his team was committed to peace talks, despite recent military achievements.

Taliban takeover of Afganistan not inevitable: US experts

  Taliban takeover of Afganistan not inevitable: US experts Kabul could be captured by the Taliban within a year as US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, but its fall is not inevitable and will depend on a much better-run Afghan defense force, US experts say. As worries mount that the insurgents could retake power in the war-torn country, experts with years of experience in Afghanistan warned that poor leadership, corruption and ethnic divisions in the Afghan security forces offer the Taliban advantages, and that much depends on whether President Ashraf Ghani's troubled government can hold.

"Reaching a peaceful solution with the Kabul administration and all Afghan sides is our policy. That policy has not changed," he told the ABC.

"In order to reach a durable peace. It is necessary to reach a negotiated settlement."

But speaking just hours before the announcement that some US troops would remain, Mr Shaheen said their demands for an end to "the occupation" and "the establishment of an Islamic government" in Afghanistan were not negotiable.

When asked what would happen if US troops did not withdraw by September 11, Mr Shaheen replied: "If they are loyal to their word, it will be good for their credibility and image. If they are not, the fight will continue."

"If they still remain in Afghanistan, that will not only be a violation of the agreement but also will not bring any success … only they will aggregate the suffering and hardship — the tragedy of the people of Afghanistan."

Susanne Schmeidl, an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of NSW, said the agreement between the US and Taliban for a troop withdrawal "paved the way to the intra-Afghan negotiations".

The announcement that some troops will remain indefinitely "could indeed have an impact on the ongoing negotiations", Dr Schmeidl said, adding that Taliban military advancements had already given them the "upper hand" in negotiations.

Afghanistan: Germany then Italy announce the complete withdrawal of their soldiers

 Afghanistan: Germany then Italy announce the complete withdrawal of their soldiers © AFP - AREF Karimi An Italian soldier forms the Afghan Army soldiers as part of the operation "Resolute Support" (Image D 'drawing). Less than 24 hours after Germany, Italy, one of the most engaged Western powers in Afghanistan, announced on Wednesday, June 30, having repatriated its latest soldiers as part of the accelerated withdrawal of NATO quotas.

"They have been negotiating from a position of strength for quite some time, and this position is only getting stronger," she said.

US to evacuate Afghan interpreters

Plans are also moving ahead for the evacuation of tens of thousands of interpreters and others who worked with American forces during the war and now fear for their safety.

A senior administration official said Thursday that planning has accelerated in recent days to relocate the Afghans and their families to other countries or US territories while their visa applications are processed.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss unannounced plans.

“We are processing and getting people out at a record pace,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

"We are working with Congress right now to streamline some of the requirements that slow this process down and we’re doing the kind of extensive planning for potential evacuation, should that become necessary."

Responding to questions after a White House speech, Mr Biden said: "Those who helped us are not going to be left behind.

"They're welcome here just like anyone else who risked their lives to help us."

US representative Mike McCaul said the evacuees will comprise some 9,000 interpreters who have applied for Special Immigration Visas and their families, adding that would amount to about 50,000 people in total.

In a public statement, the Taliban assured Afghans who worked with foreign forces of their safety.

But as the clock ticks down, Afghans who have applied for visas increasingly fear that the insurgents will target them and their families, in retribution for helping foreign forces during America's longest war.

ABC/wires

US troops must leave by deadline - Afghan Taliban .
The group's stance comes amid reports US forces will stay to protect embassies and the airport.It comes amid reports that 1,000 mainly US troops could remain on the ground to protect diplomatic missions and Kabul's international airport.

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