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World Taliban see battlefield dominance as path to political, diplomatic power

06:12  16 july  2021
06:12  16 july  2021 Source:   afp.com

Taliban attacks capital of northwest Afghan province of Badghis

  Taliban attacks capital of northwest Afghan province of Badghis Taliban launches assault on Qala-e-Naw, causing civilians to flee and Afghan forces to surrender, local officials say.Fierce fighting erupted on Wednesday in the western city of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of northwestern Badghis province, after the armed group fighters captured all the surrounding districts of the province.

"My sense is that the Taliban still prefer a political path , albeit one that for all purposes would be a capitulation," Ibraheem Bahiss, an analyst with International Crisis Group, told AFP. "If that fails, they want to be in a position to take the military path as well." After earlier trumpeting the potential for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban , US officials have become increasingly vocal that the insurgents are charting their own course with little regard for the international community's wishes. "We need to see some gesture from the Taliban here that they're not just completely intent on winning the military

The Taliban 's tactics are designed to strike fear into Afghan hearts, weaken the army's morale, and cripple and ultimately disintegrate the power of the state. Already the country's diverse ethnic communities, from Hazaras to Uzbeks to Tajiks, are looking to defend themselves Aside from the security issues, the Taliban 's current offensive has also exposed ongoing peace negotiations with the Afghan government as a sham. One Afghan government negotiator, speaking from the site of the talks in Doha, Qatar, said the Taliban offensive had caught the government by surprise and dented morale.

With US forces largely gone from the battlefield, the Taliban have conducted a staggering, land-grabbing offensive that appears aimed at forcing the Afghan government to sue for peace on the insurgents' terms or suffer complete military defeat.

a group of people standing in front of a flag: Afghan flags fluttering on masts in Kabul, where the government is struggling to counter the Taliban's latest sweeping military offensive © SAJJAD HUSSAIN Afghan flags fluttering on masts in Kabul, where the government is struggling to counter the Taliban's latest sweeping military offensive a person riding a bicycle in front of a building: Cyclists peddle past a mural painted on the wall along a road in Kabul © SAJJAD HUSSAIN Cyclists peddle past a mural painted on the wall along a road in Kabul

The scale and speed of the Taliban's campaign, and the inability of government forces to stem its progress, has swept aside any hopes that on-again-off again peace talks would produce a power-sharing framework ahead of the US military's final withdrawal at the end of August.

Pentagon Says Taliban Taking Afghanistan Is 'Not Inevitable,' U.S. Will Help Financially

  Pentagon Says Taliban Taking Afghanistan Is 'Not Inevitable,' U.S. Will Help Financially "It doesn't have to be that way and it's not like the Afghans are going to be doing this without our help," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said."It's not a forgone conclusion and nobody should think it's a forgone conclusion, that the Taliban is just going to swiftly take over the country," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN's New Day on Friday. "It doesn't have to be that way and it's not like the Afghans are going to be doing this without our help.

A Taliban official has dismissed as fake and a byproduct of US political infighting the sensational New York Times report claiming Russia had paid it to kill US troops in Afghanistan, in a segment on RT’s show Going Underground. The story, he said, “has to do with internal politics ” in Washington, and is aimed at spoiling a peace agreement signed between the US and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February. Talks are currently underway between the militants and the US-backed Afghan government to shape a post-US Afghanistan.

The Taliban side was led by Abbas Stanekzai, a senior negotiator and head of the group’s political bureau in Qatar, while the Afghan government side was led by the former vice-president Yunus Qanooni. Turkey has previously guarded the airport but it fears another wave of migration and may see a military role as a way back into the good books of Washington. The Taliban delegation who visited Iran on Tuesday and Wednesday at Tehran’s invitation, alongside three other Afghan delegations, were told by Zarif that they may have to take tough decisions.

Map showing parts of Afghanistan currently under government control and territories under the influence of the Taliban. © John SAEKI Map showing parts of Afghanistan currently under government control and territories under the influence of the Taliban.

The Taliban are largely dictating when and where they will fight the government forces with multi-pronged thrusts that authorities are struggling to halt.

Brimming with confidence, they have besieged provincial capitals and stormed key border crossings.

Experts say it is still highly unlikely the lightly armed Taliban have the conventional strength to enter the heavily fortified capital of Kabul, where the Afghan military's air force and heavy weapons would keep the insurgents at bay.

But by choking off money and supplies to Kabul, the Taliban seem more geared to push the government to collapse after battering the morale of the security forces in the countryside.

Taliban claims to control 85% of Afghanistan after rapid gains

  Taliban claims to control 85% of Afghanistan after rapid gains The Taliban have been emboldened by the NATO troop withdrawal and appear to be pressing for a full military victory. Shaheen, who is also a member of the Taliban negotiating team in Qatar, insisted the group was still seeking a “negotiated settlement”. The US president said Washington had long ago achieved its original rationale for invading the country in 2001: Rooting out al-Qaeda fighters to prevent another attack on the US such as the one launched on September 11, 2001. The mastermind of that attack, Osama bin Laden, was killed by a US commando team in neighbouring Pakistan in 2011.

Don Bolduc lost 69 men to the Taliban during the five-plus years he spent as a Special Forces officer in Afghanistan. Now a retired brigadier general, he keeps their dog tags in a memorial in his home office as a constant reminder, he says, of their sacrifice and “of the price for bad policy and strategy.” He scoffed at the notion that the Taliban would share power with the current Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani, which has been excluded from the Qatar talks at the insistence of the Taliban .

The Taliban 's rise to power . The Taliban are one of the mujahideen ("holy warriors" or "freedom fighters") groups that formed during the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-89). After the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Soviet-backed government lost ground to the mujahideen. Most of the Taliban 's leaders were educated in Pakistan, in refugee camps where they had fled with millions of other Afghans after the Soviet invasion. Pakistan's Jami'at-e 'Ulema-e Islam (JUI) political party provided welfare services, education, and military training for refugees in many of these camps.

"My sense is that the Taliban still prefer a political path, albeit one that for all purposes would be a capitulation," Ibraheem Bahiss, an analyst with International Crisis Group, told AFP.

"If that fails, they want to be in a position to take the military path as well."

After earlier trumpeting the potential for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, US officials have become increasingly vocal that the insurgents are charting their own course with little regard for the international community's wishes.

a group of people wearing costumes: Afghan militia gather with their weapons to support Afghanistan security forces against the Taliban © Hoshang HASHIMI Afghan militia gather with their weapons to support Afghanistan security forces against the Taliban

"We need to see some gesture from the Taliban here that they're not just completely intent on winning the military victory," said US General Kenneth McKenzie, who is now overseeing the remaining operations in Afghanistan from his headquarters in America.

Afghanistan: Can Turkey render the Taliban?

 Afghanistan: Can Turkey render the Taliban? Almost all NATO troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan. Turkey wants to fill the gap and offers itself as a new protective power. But the Taliban send clear threats towards Ankara. © Noorullah Shirzada / AFP / Getty Images Back on the rise: Fighters of the Taliban (archive image) after almost all western soldiers from Afghanistan have retired, the central government in the fight against the radical-Islamic Taliban is now largely on itself on your own.

The Taliban were removed from power in Afghanistan by US-led forces in 2001, but the group has gradually regained strength since and is seizing territory again. As the US prepares to complete its withdrawal by 11 September, after two decades of war, the Taliban are overrunning Afghan military outposts, town and villages and surrounding major Pakistan was also one of only three countries, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which recognised the Taliban when they were in power in Afghanistan. It was also the last country to break diplomatic ties with the group.

Taliban , ultraconservative political and religious faction that emerged in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the collapse of Afghanistan’s communist regime, and the subsequent breakdown in civil order. Learn more about the Taliban in this article. Resistance to the Taliban continued, however, particularly among non-Pashtun ethnic groups—namely, the Tajik , the Uzbek , and the Ḥazāra —in the north, west, and central parts of the country, who saw the power of the predominantly Pashtun Taliban as a continuation of the traditional Pashtun hegemony of the country.

- Insurgent onslaught -


Video: Taliban making gains as U.S. troops leave Afghanistan (MSNBC)

In just a matter of weeks the Taliban have left the Afghan security forces badly shaken -- despite nearly two decades of international oversight and tens of billions of dollars spent.

With US airpower largely removed from Afghan skies, the Taliban have seized more than 150 districts in the past two months alone, securing a vast archipelago of security outposts along with weapons, vehicles and military hardware.

Many districts and bases have fallen without a shot fired, with the Taliban deploying tribal elders to broker the surrender from poorly provisioned Afghan troops who appear to have lost the will to fight.

"The vulnerability of the security forces against the Taliban has been a surprise, as few expected them to crumble, even partially, this fast," said retired Afghan general Atiqullah Amarkhail.

The latest offensive has piggy-backed off a winter assassination campaign that targeted members of civil society, journalists, politicians and air force pilots in a bid to undercut faith in Kabul's ability to secure those who have benefitted the most from nearly two decades of international development.

Kabul, Taliban negotiators to meet in Qatar as Afghan fighting rages

  Kabul, Taliban negotiators to meet in Qatar as Afghan fighting rages Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban were due to meet in Doha for talks on Saturday as violence rages in the country while foreign forces finalise their withdrawal. "The high level delegation is here to talk to both sides, guide them and support the (government) negotiating team in terms of speeding up the talks and have progress," said Najia Anwari, the spokeswoman for the Afghan government negotiating team in Doha. © Banaras KHAN Stranded people wait for the reopening of the border crossing point in the Pakistani town of Chaman after clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak to retake the key frontier cross

Most of those killings went unclaimed, but experts point to the Taliban as the most likely culprit.

"Cities like Kabul are where the Taliban can expect opposition, in this case civil and political," stated a report by the Afghanistan Analyst Network published earlier this month.

"So pre-emptively targeting independently-minded 'public intellectuals' in the hope of eventually capturing the capital would make military sense."

The insurgents deny being involved in assassinating civilians, while some murders have been claimed by the jihadist Islamic State.

- Fight for the cities -

Reversing the insurgents momentum will be crucial for the Afghan government, with several months still left in the annual fighting season before cold weather curtails major combat operations.

The Taliban have sent mixed messages whether they will attack the cities they now besiege, with their leaders publicly vowing to refrain from fighting in urban areas even as their foot soldiers unleash withering assaults on the outskirts of provincial capitals.

But the sheer range of the Taliban's positions across most corners of Afghanistan is unprecedented.

One day the insurgents appear to be on the verge of overrunning a provincial capital in the northwest, and the next they are at the gates of Kandahar in the south -- all while seizing valuable border crossings and dry ports.

The strategy appears to be aimed at achieving multiple goals -- exhausting the country's overstretched air force and commando units, and depriving Kabul of much needed revenue.

It has also cut the central government off from the traditionally anti-Taliban strongholds it relies on for backing.

"The most surprising thing about the Taliban's offensive is its focus on the north and west. The Taliban is taking the fight to the doorstep and living room of Afghanistan's power brokers," said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

"If the warlords and other influential leaders are denied their base of support in the north and west, the Afghan government is lost."

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The Taliban explained .
The Afghan armed group has emerged as a strong player as US forces pull out of Afghanistan after 20 years.The armed group was removed from power in a US-led invasion in 2001 following the September 11 attacks on US soil, but it gradually regained strength, carrying out numerous attacks on foreign as well as Afghan forces in the past 20 years.

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