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Afghan govt. vows to retake territory from Taliban, US pulls out 90% of troops, equipment

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US troops wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, on July 2, 2009. (File photo by AFP)

The Afghan government says it will retake all the territory that has been overrun by the Taliban, as the militants advance on the ground, capturing district after district, particularly in the north of Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the government deployed hundreds of commandos to the battlefield in the northern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan, where the Taliban have captured large swathes of territory.

Since the US started the formal withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, in May — with a delay in a deadline agreed with the Taliban — the militants have intensified attacks across the country and, and according to the Pentagon, managed to take control of more than 100 of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers so far.

Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said on Tuesday that Kabul had “plans to retake the districts.”

“There is war, there is pressure. Sometimes things are working our way. Sometimes they don’t, but we will continue to defend the Afghan people,” he said.

The deployment came as reports said hundreds of Afghan troops had crossed the northern border into Tajikistan after Taliban advances on Afghan territory last week. As the security situation deteriorated across the border, Tajikistan ordered the mobilization of 20,000 military reservists to bolster the border defenses.

Tajikistan’s ally, Russia, also promised to support the country to secure the border with Afghanistan.

Russia drills attacking armed groups in Tajikistan base

Russia, which operates its largest military base abroad in Tajikistan, held a military training simulating an attack on armed groups along with a convoy of cars and arms caches.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that two MI-24 attack helicopters and two military transport helicopters had taken part in the exercise. Unguided missiles were launched at more than 15 ground targets during the drill, as well.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said on Monday that it appeared that the Taliban were now in control of most of the Tajik border on the Afghan side.

“The situation there is rather tense because according to some sources, up to 70% of the Tajik-Afghan border is now controlled by the Taliban,” Rudenko was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

The fighting in the north of Afghanistan has also forced Moscow to close its consulate in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, near the border with Uzbekistan.

Despite the fighting, the Taliban have said they will present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as next month. The militants said they were “very serious about talks and dialog” with Kabul, as all foreign troops leave the country after almost 20 years of war and occupation.

In exchange for the foreign withdrawal, the Taliban have made a commitment to negotiating with the Afghan government. But they have so far refused to declare a ceasefire. And peace talks between the Taliban and Kabul, obligated under a deal between the US and the militant group in Doha last year, have made very little progress so far.

US withdrawal 90% complete

On Tuesday, the US military said it had withdrawn more than 90% of its troops and equipment from Afghanistan.

The US Central Command said in a statement that the military had officially handed over seven facilities to the Afghan Defense Ministry. The Pentagon has also flown the equivalent of approximately 980 loads of material out of the country by large cargo aircraft, it said.

Approximately 17,000 pieces of equipment that will not be left to the Afghan military have also been handed over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction.

US President Joe Biden, who ordered the final phase of the pullout from Afghanistan, is now seeking authorization for deadly drone strikes and commando raids in Afghanistan after the withdrawal.

Citing military officials, CNN reported that the Biden administration “will retain authority to strike the Taliban even after US military forces officially leave.”

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years.

Taliban attack provincial capital of Badghis

On Wednesday, the militants launched an assault on the western city of Qala-i-Naw, the provincial capital of Badghis. They managed to take control of the police headquarters and offices of the intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security.

“The enemy has entered the city; all the districts have fallen. The fighting has started inside the city,” Badghis Governor Hessamuddin Shams told reporters in a text message.

Some security officials had surrendered to the Taliban during the attack, according to the provincial council chief Abdul Aziz Bek.

“The provincial council officials have fled to an army camp in the city. Fighting continues in the city,” said Badghis provincial council member Zia Gul Habibi.

The attack on the city marked the first time the group had attempted to overrun a provincial capital since the withdrawal of foreign forces began.

Russian FM warns about situation in Afghanistan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned about the situation in Afghanistan, criticizing the US and its NATO allies for having failed to stabilize the country after two decades of war and occupation.

“They were unable to achieve visible results when it comes to stabilizing the situation during the decades they spent there,” he said Wednesday during a visit to Laos.

Lavrov also reassured that Moscow was ready to use its military base in Tajikistan to ensure the security of its allies in the region.

“We are closely watching what is happening in Afghanistan, where the situation has a tendency to swiftly deteriorate, including against the backdrop of the hasty exit of American and other NATO troops,” he said.

The diplomat said Russia was ready to use its military base in Tajikistan “to prevent any aggressive impulses toward our allies.”


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