Amid withdrawal of US and NATO troops, the Taliban captured another provincial capital on Tuesday, 10 August, making it the eighth such capital to have fallen to the militant group since last Friday, 6 August.
Capital of the northern province of Baghlan, Pul-e-Khumri fell to the Taliban on Tuesday evening, as per residents who reported Afghan security forces retreating towards an army base in Kelagi desert. The Taliban also gained control over Farah city, capital of the eponymous province.
Meanwhile, United States President Joe Biden said that he doesn’t regret his decision to withdraw the troops and explained, “Look, we spent over a trillion dollars over twenty years, we trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
Biden asserted, “Afghan leaders have to come together…They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation,” Reuters reported.
Biden’s statement comes at a time when almost 65 percent of Afghanistan has come under the control of Taliban, an unnamed European Union official told Reuters.
United States continues to provide significant air support, food, equipment and salaries to Afghan forces, Biden was reported as saying.
‘Kabul Not a Safe Option Anymore’
In Kabul, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stated that he was seeking help from regional militias and had also appealed to civilians to defend Afghanistan's "democratic fabric".
In Aibak, between the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, the sixth provincial capital captured, Taliban fighters moved into government buildings, while most government forces seem to have withdrawn.
A tax officer named Sher Mohamed Abbas, on being asked about the current living conditions said, "The only way is self-imposed house arrest or to find a way to leave for Kabul," Reuters reported.
Abbas, who supports a family of nine, added "But then even Kabul is not a safe option anymore."
Fighting to defeat the US-backed government and reimpose strict Islamic law, the Taliban had swept into Aibak on Monday, 9 August, facing little resistance.
Political Talks at an Impasse
US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad brought a warning to the Taliban on Tuesday, to make it clear that any government that comes to power through force in Afghanistan won’t be recognised internationally.
Khalilzad had traveled to Doha, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to tell the group that a military takeover of Kabul would guarantee they remain global pariahs, news agency AFP reported.
Meanwhile, Khalilzad and others hope to persuade Taliban leaders to return to peace talks with the Afghan government.
According to the US State Department, Khalilzad's mission in Qatar is to “help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan”.
He added that to negotiate a political settlement, “is the only path to stability and development in Afghanistan”.
Head of the national disaster authority, Gulam Bahauddin Jailani, informed that fighting was going on in 25 of 34 provinces and over 60,000 families had been displaced over the past two months, with most seeking refuge in Kabul, Reuters reported.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity were being reported, including reports of the summary execution of surrendering Afghan troops.
Bachelet was quoted as saying, "People rightly fear that a seizure of power by the Taliban will erase the human rights gains of the past two decades.”
Almost 20 years after the US' invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban from power in the country, the US is now looking to withdraw the American troops from the nation by the end of August.
The escalating conflict situation in the country has resulted in the deaths of as many as 4,000 people, as well as the internal displacement of over 2 lakh citizens of the country. Almost one-third of the country is actively involved in the fighting.
(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)