Taliban forces press Afghanistan offensive as they approach Kabul

A Taliban fighter stands guard over surrendered Afghan security member forces in the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday. (Gulabuddin Amiri/AP)

A Taliban fighter stands guard over surrendered Afghan security member forces in the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday. (Gulabuddin Amiri/AP)

Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul is “deteriorating by the hour,” a reporter there tells NPR, as trust in the nation’s government dwindles and the insurgent group continues its sweeping offensive.

The Taliban captured all of Logar province Saturday — just south of Kabul — and have reached the Char Asyab district, just 7 miles south of the Afghan capital, according to The Associated Press, which cited local lawmakers. The insurgents also captured the capital of Paktika along Pakistan’s western border.

Taliban forces have gained control of 18 of 34 of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals in just eight days — putting the insurgent group in control of about two-thirds of the nation’s geography.

“Some of those 18 provincial cities that have fallen in the past week have fallen without a shot being fired,” journalist Lynn O’Donnell told NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

“They are very, very close to Kabul and the conditions here are deteriorating by the hour as people are flooding into the capital from all parts of the country to escape,” she said.

O’Donnell said Afghan security forces have not been paid for months, food is scarce and military supplies are not available where needed. Little trust remains in President Ashraf Ghani’s ability to quell the violence.

“The government of Ashraf Ghani has shown no leadership [and] has been incapable of coming up with a strategy,” O’Donnell said, noting that many have expected Ghani to resign.

Addressing the Afghan public in a prerecorded statement released Saturday, Ghani said the remobilization of national security forces was a “top priority” and vowed to prevent further instability in the country.

“I understand that you are worried about your future. I assure you as your president that I will concentrate on preventing expansion of instability, violence and displacement of my people,” Ghani said.

Biden had been optimistic about Afghanistan’s future

Much of the violence has erupted as U.S. forces continue their withdrawal from Afghanistan. Earlier this year, President Biden extended the deadline to Sept. 11 — the de facto 20-year anniversary of the war there — for troops to fully leave the nation.

Even in the face of increased Taliban offensives, Biden had remained optimistic about the future of Afghanistan.

“The jury is still out,” Biden said on July 8. “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban running over everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

But now, little evidence remains to indicate the possibility of a secure Afghanistan. Taliban offenses have accelerated in recent weeks, furthering their hold across the nation.

However, Biden has said he remains committed to the Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline.

In an effort to partially evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, some 3,000 U.S. troops — including Marine and Army forces — are being deployed back to the Afghan capital.

“This is a very narrowly focused mission of safeguarding the orderly reduction of civilian personnel out of Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday.

According to the AP, members of the United Nations Security Council are considering issuing a statement that would urge an immediate end to the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan and would reject any government imposed by military force or restoration of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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