The Taliban claimed to support “reconciliation.” Can it be trusted? | Conflict News
Kabul, Afghanistan The Taliban leaders reiterated that they hope to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan through a “political solution,” but experts and residents were shocked by the organization’s rapid military results. They expressed their intention to seize power through military means.
Earlier this week, a month before the complete withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, a senior US military commander issued a severe warning about the trajectory of the war in Afghanistan.
Mark Milli, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that the Taliban had “strategic momentum.” He does not rule out taking over the Taliban completely.
At the press conference, Milli stated that the organization has been “applying pressure” on the outskirts of half of the capital cities of the country’s 34 provinces.
Sources interviewed by Al Jazeera confirmed Mili’s assessment, saying that some of the largest provinces, including Kandahar, Helmand, Herat, Tahar, Ghazni, and Badakhshan, face security threats from the Taliban.
Given the size and population of the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, and Herat, any progress made by the Taliban in these areas is considered a boon to the organization.
Military fighting in these provinces also poses a considerable risk to civilian lives.
The Taliban gradually moved closer to urban centers and major commercial centers, forcing the government to completely reform its war strategy. According to media reports, its new focus is to protect the city center, border crossings and critical infrastructure.
Washington has withdrawn 95% of its troops from the country and has carried out air strikes in recent days to support government forces.
Pashtana Durrani, an education advocate for the city of Kandahar, stated that in recent weeks, the organization has made it very clear that they intend to occupy Kandahar, which is “a very valuable city in terms of symbolic meaning and finances”.
After the Taliban occupied the Spinboldak area, they now have access to another important dry port and customs revenue.
A customs official, who asked not to be named, told Al Jazeera that the Taliban allowed trucks to pass through the border but charged up to 50,000 Afghanis (US$628) from the driver. However, Al Jazeera cannot independently verify this. With hundreds of cars passing through these intersections every day, this group of people can make a lot of money.
“If you hold Spin Boldak, you hold money,” Durrani said.
The Taliban also have a place in the Maluf area, a three-hour drive north. This gives the organization a presence of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) in both directions in the second largest city in Afghanistan.
Durani said that the Taliban wanted very much to seize Kandahar and other cities.
“This is not a strategy of intimidation, but a reality. They are killing people.”
On Thursday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) warned all parties to the conflict that they were “tracking many allegations of harm to civilians” in Kandahar. The Ministry of the Interior claims that since the Taliban occupied Spin Boldak, at least 100 civilians have been killed by unidentified gunmen.
The Taliban denied participating in these killings.
On Friday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in Doha, the capital of Qatar, that his organization does not want a civil war. The Taliban conducted months of peace talks with Afghan leaders, while their commanders proceeded to advance military operations on the ground.
Rahmatullah Amiri, a Kabul analyst who has been tracking Taliban activities for many years, said that it has proven difficult for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to ensure such a wide range of activities.
Sources who spoke to Al Jazeera said that the Taliban knew that ANSF was stretched due to local corruption, and they were using this situation to accelerate the occupation of areas around large cities.
For years, the security forces have complained about not receiving their wages, food, ammunition, and even assistance in transporting the bodies of fallen soldiers to their families.
“If there is no corruption, the annual budget of the security forces will be more than enough, but the money has been wasted,” Amiri said, referring to the $3.3 billion that Washington alone has pledged to support 352,000 Afghan troops. The next two years.
In March this year, the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan’s Reconstruction, the U.S. Supreme Supervisory Agency for Afghanistan, stated that “Afghanistan’s endemic corruption has provided oxygen for the rebellion and destroyed the country in Afghanistan.” This statement and what the source said led to the recent acquisition of the Taliban’s territory One of the factors is consistent.
This years-long corruption problem has had an impact on the recruitment and retention of security forces.
“There are simply not enough security forces. With so many people handing over the checkpoint or fleeing, it has become easier for the Taliban to occupy the territory,” Amiri said.
Members of parliament, leaders of armed groups, and analysts who talked to Al Jazeera have repeatedly stated that this model of soldiers and police, who are unable or unwilling to fight, is beneficial to the Taliban.
Earlier this month, it was reported that more than 1,600 Afghan soldiers had fled to Tajikistan within two weeks. Durrani said that this is not something the soldiers of Kandahar can easily afford.
“Even if they want to escape, they have to flee to Helmand, which is more hostile. Or to Zabul or Uruzgan, which have been taken over by the Taliban.”
Instead, she said that the soldiers in Kandahar either died in battle or eventually joined the Taliban, which is unlikely because many of them came from a long list of military families.
Analyst Amiri said the mistakes made by the Kabul leadership and other influential figures have proven to be the Taliban’s “biggest advantage”.
“Politics is a major issue,” he pointed out that the police chief of Uruzgan has changed three times in the past two years.
Similarly, last year, the leadership in Kabul appointed three different people to lead the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior.
Amiri said that at the provincial level, this way of appointing musical chairs has a great impact on local security.
“Usually, when these people are appointed, they know very little about the field in which they intend to work and have even less contact with the people,” he said, adding that this is especially problematic when the Taliban are making efforts. At the same time expand its footholds in the southern, western and northern regions.
Ahmad Ali Hazrat, chairman of the provincial assembly of Nangarhar Province in the east, agrees that errors have always existed, but he is optimistic that the government will reverse this trend in the coming weeks.
A few days after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, the government announced a curfew in all provinces except the three provinces. Many people believe this indicates that the security forces will increase their operations.
Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told Al Jazeera that the government forces are making progress in the Herat area and challenging the authoritative claims of the Taliban.
Hazrat, who supports the local uprising forces in Nangarhar, said that those forces fighting alongside the army and police will also help the government begin to retake the area.
His determination of the strength of the local people and the security forces fighting side by side came from his recent experience in Nangarhar. In 2018, residents of several areas in the eastern provinces began to take up arms against so-called ISIL fighters and drove them out of areas they had claimed to be strongholds for many years.
“Even two years ago, Daesh was so powerful in Nangarhar, but it was the people who emerged that defeated them and deprived them of power,” Hazrat said, referring to ISIL’s Arabic name Daesh.
But he knows that the government and people cannot relax their vigilance.
“The Taliban’s strategy is very clear. They want to seize Afghanistan by force again,” Hazrat said.
Analyst Amiri agrees with Hazrat’s view of the Taliban, who have killed thousands of people in armed insurgency over the past 20 years.
He said that the government must work sincerely, accurately and diligently to ensure the safety of the provinces. He said that the price of error is too high.
“It’s not that the Taliban suddenly became stronger and stronger, but that they used the political situation and defections to seek their own benefits.