World Taliban Aiming to Take Afghanistan Areas After US Troops are Withdrawn, UN Envoy Says
Biden heads to NATO amid friction over Afghanistan withdrawal
European officials say they are frustrated by what they saw as the Biden administration’s failure to sufficiently consult with allies ahead of the announcement.European officials say they are frustrated by what they saw as the Biden administration’s failure to sufficiently consult with allies ahead of the announcement, and the decision to move from a conditions-based withdrawal to one based on the calendar. U.K. Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace echoed those sentiments last month, telling parliament that he “regrets” the decision to withdraw forces without setting conditions on the Taliban.
The Taliban may be aiming to claim Afghanistan's provincial capitals onceforces are withdrawn, said Deborah Lyons, U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan. Lyons stated that learning of President 's rapid plan to pull all troops by Sept. 11 this year caused "a seismic tremor through the Afghan political system and society at large."
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.
Hope dims for American hostage as US hastily exits Afghanistan
As American military forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the family of hostage Mark Frerichs fears time is running out to secure his release from the Taliban. Once American military and special operations personnel have left Afghanistan -- which some officials anticipate will happen by July Fourth -- experts say the U.S. will lose most of whatever leverage it might have to free civil engineer Mark Frerichs through one of the limited number of tracks the government has already contemplated or acted upon during his 17 months of captivity.
"More than 50 of Afghanistan's 370 districts have fallen since the beginning of May," Lyons said. "Most districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn."
Biden plans to meet Friday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who leads Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, responsible for supervising the Taliban negotiation team.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Lyons also pointed to a 29 percent increase in civilian casualties in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year, including a 37 percent rise in casualties among women and a 23 percent increase among children. She singled out the May 8 attack on girls leaving school in a majority-Hazara area of Kabul that killed nearly 100 young female students, and two attacks this month that killed 11 people clearing mines in Baghlan province and five people engaged in polio vaccinations in Nangarhar province.
Afghan peace envoy fears pullout will embolden Taliban
ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) — The Afghan government’s chief peace envoy expressed fears on Friday that the Taliban will have no interest in a political settlement with the U.S.-supported administration in Kabul after the scheduled departure of American and NATO forces. Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, said there were signs that the Taliban were seeking military advances ahead of the Sept. 11 troop withdrawal. He warned however that, if so, the extremist Islamic movement was making a “big miscalculation.
Lyons said the military campaign runs country to a recent statement by the head of the Taliban Political Commission who said: "We are committed to forging ahead with the other sides in an atmosphere of mutual respect and reach an agreement."
Thehad hoped to accelerate stalled negotiations in Doha through a conference in Istanbul in April that would have been co-hosted by Turkey, Qatar and the U.N., but the Taliban never officially responded to the invitation, Lyons said, and "the drivers of conflict seem for now to overwhelm" hopes for negotiations.
Lyons urged the U.N. Security Council and regional countries to make every effort "to avoid the country going down the path of more bloodshed and suffering."
"There is only one acceptable direction for Afghanistan...away from the battlefield and back to the negotiating table," she said. "The tragic history of conflict need not repeat itself—but left to its own and our inertia it just might."
Afghanistan running out of oxygen as COVID surge worsens
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of COVID-19 worsens, a senior health official told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday. The government is installing oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where the increase in COVID cases in some areas is hovering around 65%, health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dasigi Nazary said. By WHO recommendations, anything higher than 5% shows officials aren’t testing widely enough, allowing the virus to spread unchecked. Afghanistan carries out barely 4,000 tests a day and often much less.
Afghanistan's foreign minister accused the Taliban on Tuesday of carrying out its worst violence in the past two decades and urged the international community to try to persuade the Taliban to honor a February 2020 agreement with the United States to reduce violence and enter peace negotiations.
Mohammad Haneef Atmar told the U.N. Security Council that with the withdrawal of U.S. andtroops "to be completed in the coming weeks," the international community should also establish a "mechanism" to monitor implementation of the agreement reached in Qatar's capital Doha and the council resolution supporting it, "and to take appropriate measures to ensure compliance."
Under the deal, the U.S. agreed to withdraw its troops in exchange for a Taliban promise to denounce terrorist groups and keep Afghanistan from again being a staging arena for attacks on America, to reduce violence and work with the government on a permanent cease-fire, and enter negotiations with the government aimed at restoring peace to the war-battered country.
Afghanistan's president will visit Biden at the White House on Friday
The Afghan president and chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation will visit with President Joe Biden on Friday at the White House. President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman Abdullah Abdullah's visit will "highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan as the military drawdown continues," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday.
Atmar said in his virtual briefing to the council's ministerial meeting that the U.S. and regional partners have met almost all their obligations in the agreement, but "it's a sad reality that the Taliban has not honored any of its obligations," and has left the country and region "dangerously unstable."
He pointed to the Taliban's failure to cut ties with international terrorist groups, saying it is hosting "not only al-Qaida but also regional terrorist groups...in pursuit of their violence campaign against both Afghanistan and other countries."
He urged the Taliban to explain to the world community why they said they were fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan and are "killing their fellow Afghans, and especially civilians, where the foreign troops are leaving the country now."
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield reiterated the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan's safety and security and continuing support for its security forces and economic and humanitarian needs.
She also urged countries with influence to press for negotiations between the Taliban and the government to move forward toward a peace settlement "with the full participation of women."
"To the Taliban, we reiterate that the military path will not lead to legitimacy," Thomas-Greenfield said, noting that council members from Europe, Russia and China have also stressed that there is no military solution to the conflict.
US could slow Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban gains
The Pentagon says September is still its withdrawal target as the Taliban seizes land and weapons.Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the deadline for a full withdrawal by 11 September was still in place, but the pace may change.
"The world will not recognize the establishment in Afghanistan of any government-imposed by force, nor the restoration of the Islamic Emirate (under the Taliban)," Thomas-Greenfield warned. "There is only one way forward: a negotiated and inclusive political settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process."
An inside look at the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: ABC News exclusive .
Gen. Austin Scott Miller, directing the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan acknowledged to ABC News' Martha Raddatz that the security situation is "not good." Gen. Austin Scott Miller said he stands by his belief that there cannot be a military victor in Afghanistan, but he told Raddatz that as the Taliban continues with its military operations across the country, while also engaging in peace talks, "you're starting to create conditions here that doesn't -- won't look good for Afghanistan in the future if there is a push for a military takeover" that could result in a civil war.