Taliban may take Afghanistan capital within 90 days after rapid gains: US intelligence

Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan̵7;s capital in 30 days and possibly capture it within 90, a US defense official said, citing US intelligence, as resurgent militants make more progress across the country. Of.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, said the new assessment of how long Kabul could stand was the result of the Taliban’s rapid gains as US-led foreign forces moved away.

“But this is not a pre-arranged conclusion,” the official said. He said Afghan security forces could reverse the momentum by creating more resistance.

Islamists now occupy 65% ​​of Afghanistan and threatened to take over or take 11 provincial capitals, a senior EU official said on Tuesday. Faizabad in the northeastern province of Badakhshan on Wednesday became the eighth provincial capital held by the Taliban.

A doctor based in southern Kandahar province said fighting in Kandahar city was intense. Several bodies of Afghan forces and some wounded Taliban were found in the city.

A western security source said all entrances to Kabul, which is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, were filled with civilians fleeing the violence. The source said it was difficult to tell whether Taliban fighters were also passing through.

“The fear is that suicide bombers will sneak into the diplomatic quarters to intimidate, attack and make sure everyone leaves as soon as possible,” he said.

The pace of progress of the Taliban has stunned the government and its allies. The group, which controlled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when it was ousted after September 11 for harboring al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, seeks to defeat the US-backed government and reintroduce strict Islamic law. wants to implement.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the attacks were against the spirit of the 2020 agreement.

Price said on Wednesday that the Taliban was committed to negotiating a peace deal that would lead to a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.” “All signs at least suggest that the Taliban are chasing victory on the battlefield.”

“Attacking provincial capitals and targeting civilians is inconsistent with the spirit of the agreement,” he said.

The United Nations said more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the past month, and the International Committee of the Red Cross said about 4,042 injured people have been treated in 15 health facilities since August 1.

The Taliban denied targeting or killing civilians and demanded an independent investigation.

“The group has not targeted any civilians or their homes in any area, but the operation has been launched with great precision and caution,” spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a statement on Wednesday.

peace talks

The loss of Faizabad was the latest blow to the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which flew to Mazar-i-Sharif to rally the old warlords to defend the largest city in the north, as Taliban forces closed in on .

Ghani spent years sidelining the warlords as he tried to project the authority of his central government over the free-ranging provinces.

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he did not regret his decision to withdraw and urged Afghan leaders to fight for their homeland.

He said Washington has spent more than $1 trillion over 20 years and lost thousands of US troops, and continues to provide vital air support, food, equipment and salaries to Afghan forces.

“The Afghans need to determine whether they have the political will to fight back and whether they have the capacity to unite as leaders to fight,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

She declined to comment on intelligence assessments that Kabul could be overrun by the Taliban within 90 days, first reported by the Washington Post, but said it plans to withdraw troops by August 31.

A source familiar with the assessments said they paint a range of possible outcomes, including a swift Taliban takeover, an extended fighting and a possible negotiated settlement between the Taliban and the current government.

the new generation

The Taliban’s progress has raised fears of a return to power for radical militants formed from the chaos of civil war in 1994.

A new generation of Afghans, who have aged since 2001, fear that progress made in areas such as women’s rights and media freedom will be ruined.

The State Department’s Price said the United States was working to build an international consensus behind the need for a peace deal. The Taliban have taken control of districts bordering Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan and China, raising regional security concerns.

They met in Doha as envoys from the United States, China, Russia and other countries with Taliban and Afghan government negotiators to break a month-long impasse in peace talks.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan He said Taliban leaders told him earlier this year that they would not hold talks with the Afghan government as long as Ghani remains president.

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