Afghanistan April 2021-

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The U.S. War in Afghanistan 1999 – 2021
The Taliban insurgency remains resilient nearly two decades after U.S.-led forces toppled its regime in what led to the United States’ longest war.
Council on Foreign Relations April 2021

China hosts Taliban leaders as U.S. withdraws troops from Afghanistan
(WaPo) China expressed support for the Taliban’s role in Afghanistan’s future while warning it to cut ties with a separatist movement in the Xinjiang region, in a clear expression of Beijing’s geopolitical goals in the Central Asian country.
Just days after meeting with top U.S. officials in the port city of Tianjin, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi welcomed a nine-member delegation from the Taliban that included chief negotiator and top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. This comes amid the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which some experts and officials have warned could lead to political instability in the region.
According to a Foreign Ministry statement, Wang told Taliban leaders that America’s “hasty withdrawal” from Afghanistan is a mark of its policy failures in the country. China will not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, he said, adding that the Taliban is expected to “play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction” of the country.

22 July Updated 24 July
Canadian Veterans Fill Void to Help Afghans Who Once Worked With Them
Despite promises from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada has yet to produce a plan to bring Afghan interpreters and other workers to the country.
(NYT) Frustrated by the lack of action by Canada to resettle Afghans who worked for the Canadian government in Afghanistan, some Canadian military veterans are using their own money, time and connections to get them into safer parts of Afghanistan.
With Western troops pulling out of Afghanistan and the Taliban tightening their grip, some 100 Afghans who once worked for Canada, and their families, now face the threat of reprisals. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, have repeatedly promised that a plan will be announced soon.
After Canada’s combat mission in Kandahar ended in 2011, the government offered a program that allowed 800 Afghans, mostly interpreters and their families, to settle in Canada. But several veterans remain critical of that program for excluding people who worked in other roles or who worked for government contractors. And in some cases, even interpreters were denied relocation for seemingly minor reasons.
Now, Canadian veterans are calling on Canada’s government to follow the lead of Britain, which began accelerating the relocation of its Afghan staff members in late May, by coming up with a new program to relocate its own former workers as quickly as possible.

20 July
Diplomatic Community Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas discuss the plight of the Afghan interpreters and the relative efforts of the U.S. and Canada to exfiltrate them. Is the Canadian government moving too slowly? Trudeau says Ottawa working to help Afghan interpreters come to Canada (14 July)

9-19 July
Foreign missions in Afghanistan call for Taliban ceasefire
Doha talks fail to reach ceasefire agreement
Clashes continue across Afghanistan
Afghan president visits western city under siege
(Reuters) – Fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Afghanistan urged the Taliban on Monday to halt their military offensives just hours after the rival Afghan sides failed to agree on a ceasefire at a peace meeting in Doha.
A delegation of Afghan leaders met the Taliban’s political leadership in the Qatari capital over the weekend but the Taliban, in a statement late on Sunday, made no mention of a halt to Afghanistan’s escalating violence. read more

14 July
Taliban claim Afghan border crossing with Pakistan in major gain
Militants say they have made what could be their most significant advance in a nationwide offensive
(The Guardian) By the early hours of Wednesday, in a battle that took the lives of at least four Afghan soldiers and injured eight Taliban fighters, Taliban troops had taken full control of the city and the Afghan side of the Spin Boldak-Chaman border crossing into Pakistan, one of the most crucial trade and travel routes between the two countries.
Taliban surge in north Afghanistan sends thousands fleeing
In the last 15 days, Taliban advances have driven more than 5,600 families from their homes, most of them in the northern reaches of the country, according to the government’s Refugee and Repatriations Ministry
(AP) —…around 50 families living in a makeshift camp on a rocky patch of land on the edge of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif…roast in plastic tents under scorching heat that reaches 44 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) at midday. There are no trees, and the only bathroom for the entire camp is a tattered tent pitched over a foul-smelling hole.
As the Taliban surge through northern Afghanistan — a traditional stronghold of U.S.-allied warlords and an area dominated by the country’s ethnic minorities — thousands of families…are fleeing their homes, fearful of living under the insurgents’ rule.
… A February 2020 agreement the Taliban signed with the United States reportedly prevents the insurgents from capturing provincial capitals. Yet two — Kandahar in the south and Badghis in the north — are under siege. In the capital of Kabul, where many fear an eventual Taliban assault, a rocket defense system has been installed, the Ministry of Interior said over the weekend. The statement offered no detail about its origin or cost.
9 July
Taliban Enter Kandahar City and Seize Border Posts
Taliban forces on Friday penetrated Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in a new phase of a sweeping insurgent offensive that has captured territory across the country since May 1, when U.S. forces began withdrawing.
The insurgents had been encroaching on Kandahar city, the capital of the province of the same name, for several weeks, capturing surrounding districts, before entering the city for the first time Friday.
Taliban captures key Afghan border crossing with Iran: Officials
Group continues advances as foreign forces withdraw, with sources saying some Afghan security officials have fled to Iran.
(Al Jazeera) Taliban fighters have seized control of a key district in western Afghanistan that includes an important border crossing with Iran, Afghan security officials said, as the armed group continues its rapid military advances around the country.
In the last week, the Taliban has overrun areas bordering five countries – Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan – as foreign forces end their 20-year intervention and the domestic security situation deteriorates.
Special Report: Afghan pilots assassinated by Taliban as U.S. withdraws
(Reuters) At least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months, according to two senior Afghan government officials. This series of targeted killings, which haven’t been previously reported, illustrate what U.S. and Afghan officials believe is a deliberate Taliban effort to destroy one of Afghanistan’s most valuable military assets: its corps of U.S.- and NATO-trained military pilots.
In response to questions from Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group…had started a program that will see Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people.”
Afghan military pilots are particularly attractive assassination targets, current and former U.S. and Afghan officials say. They can strike Taliban forces massing for major attacks, shuttle commandos to missions and provide life-saving air cover for Afghan ground troops. Pilots take years to train and are hard to replace, representing an outsized blow to the country’s defenses with every loss.
Taliban says it controls most of Afghanistan, reassures Russia
The officials said the Taliban would do all it could to prevent Islamic State operating on Afghan territory and that it would also seek to wipe out drug production.
(Reuters) A Taliban delegation in Moscow said on Friday that the group controlled over 85% of territory in Afghanistan and reassured Russia it would not allow the country to be used as a platform to attack others.
Foreign forces, including the United States, are withdrawing after almost 20 years of fighting, a move that has emboldened Taliban insurgents to try to gain fresh territory in Afghanistan.
That has prompted hundreds of Afghan security personnel and refugees to flee across the border into neighbouring Tajikistan and raised fears in Moscow and other capitals that Islamist extremists could infiltrate Central Asia, a region Russia views as its backyard.

Heather Cox Richardson July 8, 2021
Today, President Joe Biden announced that the military mission of the United States in Afghanistan will end on August 31. We have been in that country for almost 20 years and have lost 2448 troops and personnel. Another 20,722 Americans have been wounded. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 35,000 to 40,000. The mission has cost more than a trillion dollars.
Leaving Afghanistan brings up just how much the world has changed in the past two decades.
In the years since 2001, three U.S. presidents have tried to strengthen the Afghan government to keep the nation from again becoming a staging ground for terrorists that could attack the U.S. But even a troop surge, like the one President Barack Obama launched into the region in 2009, could not permanently defeat the Taliban, well funded as it is by foreign investors, mining, opium, and a sophisticated tax system it operates in the shadow of the official government.
…Donald Trump, sent officials to negotiate with the Taliban, and in February 2020 the U.S. agreed to withdraw all U.S. troops, along with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, by May 1, so long as the Taliban stopped attacking U.S. troops and cut ties with terrorists.
The U.S. did not include the Afghan government in the talks that led to the deal, leaving it to negotiate its own terms with the Taliban after the U.S. had already announced it was heading home.
Biden has made it no secret that he was not comfortable with the seemingly endless engagement in Afghanistan, but he was also boxed in by Trump’s agreement.[Trump’s Deal To End War In Afghanistan Leaves Biden With ‘A Terrible Situation’] Meanwhile, by announcing the U.S. intentions, American officials took pressure off the Taliban to negotiate with Afghan leaders.
Today, the president explained that the withdrawal was taking place quicker than planned.

5-6 July
The long end of the 9/11 wars
(Politico Nightly) The U.S. military has officially completed 90 percent of its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. Central Command said today. The White House said the final drawdown will be completed by the end of August.
The political ramifications of the end of America’s first post-9/11 war are hard to predict. The Taliban is taking hold again in Afghanistan, bolstered by the U.S. military’s exit. And, while the U.S. is looking at basing troops in Central Asia to help ensure Kabul doesn’t fall, Moscow is working to complicate the withdrawal.
Here’s how we can save Afghanistan from ruin even as we withdraw American troops
Michael E. O’Hanlon
(Brookings) Our own intelligence community has now joined the chorus of those predicting the violent defeat of the Afghan government within the year. More than 10% of Afghanistan’s districts (akin to American counties) have fallen to Taliban control since the Biden decision to pull out all forces.
Not only NATO troops but also outside contractors, needed for maintaining the Western-built aircraft and other vehicles we transferred to Afghan security forces over the years, are pulling up stakes. Afghan forces who see compatriots surrendering in other areas, and know there is little prospect of being reinforced if they are attacked, may lose heart and lay down their arms preemptively.
The fact that the Biden administration and key members of Congress welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his top leadership team to Washington recently provides some glimmer of hope that something may still be salvaged in Afghanistan, starting with sustained Western financial aid for Afghanistan’s security forces.
Even so, such historical analogies and friendly meetings will not suffice. Nor will a strategy that simply tries to hold onto the whole country in the face of the Taliban onslaught. The Afghan government needs a fallback plan that would allow for selective protection of large swaths, but not all, of the country. There are some signs it is moving in this direction. It has already eliminated some remote military checkpoints that were always indefensible and very difficult to resupply. More such thinking is needed.

  • New ways to sustain several thousand Western contractors in or near Afghanistan are needed, so that these technical experts may help maintain the Afghan helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft crucial for moving Afghanistan’s small but excellent special forces around the battlefield quickly, and coming to the aid of ground troops under concerted Taliban attack.
  • Some remote parts of the country’s south and east, especially in those Pashtun tribal belts most friendly to the Taliban, should alas be effectively conceded to the adversary. Again, some of this is already happening. Large parts of Helmand province, for example, belong in this category. Before becoming too despondent, though, it is worth remembering that comparatively few individuals from Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun ethnic groups – which collectively make up a majority of the population – support the Taliban in any way.
  • Once NATO’s ground troops are gone, NATO airpower based in the broader region might be used to help Afghanistan’s own fledgling air force support its troops on the ground when under concerted attack.
  • Certain areas that come under Taliban control should be counterattacked at some point, if and when Taliban leaders present inviting targets to Afghan forces.
  • The more suitable of Afghanistan’s many militias should be placed on government payroll and integrated into an overall campaign plan. Payments should be contingent on some measure of restraint and respect for innocent lives on the part of these groups.
  • A strategy for protecting key parts of Kabul should be developed in tactical detail. It might not prove possible to hold the whole capital.
  • Large camps should be prepared for those Afghans who become internally displaced due to fighting in their home regions or due to the brutality of Taliban rule that may result in some areas.

Ultimately, our hope must be that future Taliban leaders, as well as their Pakistani friends, realize that their dreams of a quick victory after NATO’s departure from Afghanistan were illusory. At that point – but probably only at that point – a future peace process may have a chance. Until then, our main goal must be to help Afghan friends prevent a takeover from a Taliban leadership that shows few genuine signs of breaking off ties to extremists, moderating its behavior, or compromising with the current government in the pursuit of peace.

Vacated by Americans, Kabul’s Bagram Air Base bustles again as Afghans move in
(Reuters) Outside the walls of the vast base, things are not as serene. The Taliban have ramped up offensives against Afghan government forces across the country, particularly in the north where insurgents have gained territory rapidly.
Al Jazeera paints a different picture
US left Bagram without telling new commander: Afghan officials
Before the Afghan army could take control of airfield, looters ransack barracks and rummage through storage tents.
Afghan soldiers who wandered throughout the base that had once seen as many as 100,000 US troops were deeply critical of how the US left Bagram.
“In one night they lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area,” said Afghan soldier Naematullah, who asked that only his one name be used.
Tajikistan calls up reservists to bolster border as Afghan troops flee Taliban
more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled across the frontier in response to Taliban militant advances. The crossings on Sunday underscored the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
The Taliban plan to present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government side as soon as next month, a spokesman for the Islamist insurgents said even as they make major territorial gains in the breach left by departing foreign forces.
Afghan gov’t welcomes move to ‘understand what they want’
Warring sides resume long-stalled peace talks in Qatar
Discussions to be ‘accelerated’ in coming days -Taliban
Taliban seizing ever more territory as foreign forces go

3 July
Biden Sends Dueling Messages on Afghanistan
The administration has sought to reassure Americans that it is ending “forever wars” while signaling to Afghans that the U.S. is not abandoning the beleaguered country.
Politico comments — NYT’s Eric Schmitt on Biden’s “dueling messages” on Afghanistan. The Biden administration is simultaneously seeking to “reassure the American public that its so-called forever wars are winding down, at least militarily, while trying to convince beleaguered Afghans that the United States is not abandoning the country at a moment when intelligence analysts assess that the government could fall in as few as six months to a resurgent Taliban,” writes Schmitt. “To listen to the White House and Pentagon, the exit of the last American combat troops from Bagram Air Base is not the end of the mission in Afghanistan. At least that was the signal to the Afghans. … The United States military will still help Afghan forces, just by teleconference from afar.” It’s sort of the Schrodinger’s cat of foreign policy messaging: We’re simultaneously pulling out of Afghanistan and not.
Opinion: Biden’s cold response to Afghanistan’s collapse will have far-reaching consequences
(WaPo) editorial board) When President Biden chose in April to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September, we were among those who judged that the result would be a disaster for the country’s 38 million people — and in particular, its women. Now, that tragedy appears to be unfolding more quickly than even many of the pessimists imagined. In recent weeks, Taliban forces have captured dozens of districts in a nationwide offensive, surrounding several provincial capitals and blocking key roads into Kabul. On Tuesday, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, met with reporters and warned with remarkable bluntness that “civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” adding: “That should be a concern for the world.”
It ought, at least, to be a concern for Mr. Biden, who inherited a difficult situation from President Donald Trump but chose to pull the plug on the U.S. mission rather than fix it. The president ought to be reconsidering the swift withdrawal he ordered in light of the incipient crumbling of an Afghan government and army that the United States spent two decades helping to build. Instead, he has been cold to the country’s plight. Last month, according to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Biden decided against slowing the withdrawal from the main U.S. air base in the country, Bagram, which some U.S. officials favored; the pullout was completed this week. Last Friday he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House in what was cast as a show of support, only to declare that Afghans would have to “decide their future.”
That future is likely to be bleak, if current trends continue. As U.S. advisers and air support melt away, Afghan army units are being wiped out by the Taliban, or are surrendering without a fight. In desperation, the government has invited ethnic militias to remobilize, risking a return to the anarchic conflict and banditry that plagued the country in the 1990s. Even with that support, the government may not be able to hold on; a U.S. intelligence community assessment that surfaced last week said it could fall within six to 12 months of the U.S. departure.
If that happens, not only Afghans will be at risk. According to the intelligence community and a study commissioned by Congress, al-Qaeda could reestablish bases in the country. Waves of refugees are likely to pour out, destabilizing neighbors such as Pakistan and massing at the borders of Europe. U.S. rivals such as Iran, China and Russia could draw the conclusion that Mr. Biden lacks the stomach to stand up for embattled U.S. allies such as Iraq, Taiwan and Ukraine.

30 June
Donald Rumsfeld, US defence chief during Iraq war, dead at 88
Rumsfeld, during his second stint as defence secretary in the early 2000s, was the architect of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld oversaw the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but failed to maintain law and order in the aftermath, and Iraq descended into chaos with a bloody insurgency and violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. US troops remained in Iraq until 2011, long after he left his post.
Many historians and military experts blamed Rumsfeld for decisions that led to difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

29 June
Top US general says security in Afghanistan deteriorating
For now, the US has the weapons and capability to aid Afghanistan forces being tested by a Taliban offensive, the US general says.
The United States’ top general in Afghanistan on Tuesday gave a sobering assessment of the country’s deteriorating security situation as the US winds down its so-called “forever war”.
General Austin Miller said the rapid loss of districts around the country to the Taliban — several with significant strategic value — is worrisome. He also cautioned that the militias deployed to help the beleaguered national security forces could lead the country into civil war.
US officials have said the pullout of US troops will most likely be completely finished by July 4 with a residual force remaining to protect the US embassy and international airport in Kabul.
As the U.S. Pulls Out of Afghanistan, Kabul’s Airport Is a Final Stand
With the main allied military air base about to close, negotiations are underway with Turkey about continuing to secure the civilian airport as the Taliban advance across the country.
Taliban fighters launch attack on Ghazni
Fighting with government forces in central Afghan city comes as foreign troops continue withdrawal from the country.
(Al Jazeera)Tuesday’s assault on Ghazni, on the highway linking the capital Kabul with the southern province of Kandahar, ramps up the Taliban’s offensive against the government and comes as foreign troops prepare to exit from the war-torn country in less than three months.
Violence surged after the United States and NATO military began the withdrawal of their last remaining troops to meet a September 11 deadline announced by President Joe Biden to end the US’s longest war.
Since early May, the Taliban has launched several bloody offensives against government forces across the rugged countryside and says it has seized nearly 90 of the country’s more than 400 districts.

The People We’re Leaving Behind in Afghanistan
Young Afghans defied the Taliban and signed on to reconstruction efforts, only to learn that U.S. and NATO forces would be abruptly withdrawn.
By Steve Coll
(The New Yorker) In an age of renewed competition between dictatorships and democracies, self-reflective questioning about the integrity and the viability of the global human-rights regime—and how to strengthen it—could hardly be more urgent. Regarding Afghanistan, however, these are not questions in which the Biden Administration has shown much interest. Having made a risky and swift decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country this year, Joe Biden is understandably anxious to deflect responsibility for what may come next and to signal to Americans that it’s up to the Afghans now.

23-24 June
U.S. evacuation of Afghan interpreters, families could reach 50,000 people -U.S. lawmaker
(Reuters) – The evacuation by the United States of at-risk Afghan interpreters will include their family members for a total of as many as 50,000 people, a senior Republican congressman told Reuters on Thursday.
Calls grow to evacuate Afghans who helped US troops to Guam
(Al Jazeera) In the chaotic, final hours of the Vietnam War, the US evacuated thousands of South Vietnamese who supported the American mission and were at risk under the communist government.
With US and NATO forces facing a September 11 deadline to leave Afghanistan, many are recalling that desperate, hasty exodus as they urge the Biden administration to evacuate thousands of Afghans who worked as interpreters or otherwise helped US military operations there in the past two decades.
A special visa programme for those who helped the US in Afghanistan will not get those eligible out before NATO forces leave.
Calls grow to evacuate Afghans to Guam as US troops leave
(AP) Lawmakers have urged the administration to consider temporarily relocating Afghans who worked for American or NATO forces to a safe overseas location while their U.S. visas are processed. Some have suggested Guam, a U.S. territory that served a similar purpose after the Vietnam War. Kurdish refugees also were flown to the Pacific island in 1996 after the Gulf War.
Guam’s governor recently wrote to President Joe Biden to say the territory was ready to help if needed.

22 June
Taliban captures Afghanistan’s main Tajikistan border crossing
Some security forces abandon their posts and flee across the frontier as the Taliban seizes Shir Khan Bandar crossing.
(Al Jazeera) The seizure of Shir Khan Bandar, in the far north of Afghanistan about 50km (30 miles) from Kunduz city, is the most significant gain for the Taliban since it stepped up operations on May 1 when the US began the final stages of its troop withdrawal.
The attack comes as the UN special envoy on Afghanistan warned that Taliban fighters have taken more than 50 of 370 districts in the country since May and that increased conflict “means increased insecurity for many other countries, near and far”.

20 June
Catastrophe stalks Afghanistan as the US and UK dash for the exit
Simon Tisdall
Little has been achieved in 20 years of war, and as the Taliban regroup, ordinary Afghans brace for an uncertain future
(The Guardian) Fighting is currently spreading like a bushfire from district to district. There is no peace deal in place, no power-sharing, no intra-Afghan ceasefire, and growing fear of nationwide conflagration – and yet still the Americans are leaving.

19 June
Death of famed Afghan commander in Taliban massacre highlights the country’s struggles and fears
Col. Sohrab Azimi, a field commander in Afghan special forces that often rescue troops and retake outposts from Taliban attacks, symbolized the country’s best hope to fend off an insurgent takeover as U.S. troops began to withdraw from the fight.
Azimi, 31, and his squad of 22 men were massacred Wednesday by Taliban forces while defending a base in northern Faryab province and waiting for reinforcements. … in Faryab, one of numerous provinces where the Taliban has launched repeated assaults in recent months, the mass killing added to a deepening sense of despair and defeat. After weeks of attacks that wore down local security forces and led many to surrender, the highly trained commandos sent to save the day had been surrounded, isolated and mowed down en masse.
The loss unleashed a flood of emotions across social media — grief, anger and fear that even the nation’s most skilled defenders would be undercut by poor military leadership and the departure of Afghanistan’s major foreign military ally.

17 June
The United States Needs Central Asian Partners to Protect Afghanistan’s Future
Ambitious post-withdrawal hopes can’t be achieved without bases nearby.
(Foreign Policy) As the U.S. government begins the final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged that counterterrorism efforts as well as “diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.” But it is unclear how the United States and the international community will make good on those promises. Although the Afghan government may be able to survive in the near term, the security situation is almost certain to deteriorate, limiting access for both military and humanitarian assistance. If the United States is to mount an effective counterterrorism effort and facilitate crucial humanitarian assistance from the United Nations, it must focus its diplomatic efforts on finding partners in the region. Those partners are in Central Asia.

15 June
Afghan peace talks resume after months-long hiatus
The Afghan government and the Taliban met for peace negotiations in Qatar on Tuesday for the first time since talks stalled in April.
It followed a flurry of diplomacy that saw the United Nations’ Special Representative Deborah Lyons and U.S. Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha to jumpstart the moribund process this month.

12-14 June
NATO commits to training Afghan forces after U.S. withdrawal
It had been unclear whether the alliance would continue with the mission.
(Politico) The announcement ends speculation over what will happen to the NATO training mission in Afghanistan once U.S. and NATO forces leave the country by September. Pentagon officials have said the United States will end its own training program after the withdrawal, although Washington will continue funding the Afghan forces.
Biden heads to NATO amid friction over Afghanistan withdrawal
European officials say they are frustrated by what they saw as the Biden administration’s failure to sufficiently consult with allies ahead of the announcement.
European officials say they are frustrated by what they saw as the Biden administration’s failure to sufficiently consult with allies ahead of the announcement, and the decision to move from a conditions-based withdrawal to one based on the calendar.
NATO allies seek clarity on maintaining secure facilities in Afghanistan following troop withdrawal
With fewer than 100 days before the Sept. 11 deadline President Biden has set for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, allies in the two-decade-long war are anxiously awaiting U.S. guidance on what comes next.
The administration has issued broad commitments to maintaining its diplomatic presence and massive aid programs there, and to keeping terrorists from using Afghanistan as a launchpad for global attacks.
But NATO and other partners are increasingly concerned about the details, from how Kabul’s international airport and the main medical facility that diplomats and aid workers depend on will be kept operational and secure to where counterterrorism surveillance and other assets will be based outside Afghanistan.

7 June
UN envoy holds talks on Afghanistan in Tehran
(Tehran Times) UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on Afghanistan Jean Arnault discussed on Monday issues related to the latest developments in Afghanistan.
Heading a UN delegation, Arnault met with Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan.
During the meeting, the current developments in Afghanistan, including the dialogue process and the security situation in the country, were discussed.
Pointing out that Iran considers peace and security in Afghanistan as peace and security in the Islamic Republic, Taherian expressed Tehran’s support for the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

5 June
The Taliban Are Getting Stronger In Afghanistan As U.S. And NATO Forces Exit
(NPR) The Taliban have been accelerating a years-old trend of seizing districts since the U.S. scaled back its airstrikes in support of Afghan forces following the deal the Trump administration struck with the Taliban in February last year, according to Jonathan Schroden, an expert at the Center for Naval Analyses in Arlington, Va.
“What you’re seeing the Taliban do now is not just taking rural areas, but taking rural areas that are increasingly closer to significant cities, provincial capitals, for example, and effectively surrounding them and also cutting the roads that connect to them.”
A recent quarterly inspector general report to Congress said, as of February, the Taliban had surrounded five provincial capitals, including Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city. The insurgents have doubled their territory since 2018, according to Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who closely follows Taliban military gains. “And keep in mind: That was when U.S. forces were there,” he says.

27 May (Updated 20 June)
A Wave of Afghan Surrenders to the Taliban Picks Up Speed
Dozens of besieged outposts or bases, and four district centers, have given up to the insurgents this month, in an accelerating rural collapse as American troops leave.
(NYT)) Since May 1, at least 26 outposts and bases in just four provinces — Laghman, Baghlan, Wardak and Ghazni — have surrendered after such negotiations, according to village elders and government officials. With morale diving as American troops leave, and the Taliban seizing on each surrender as a propaganda victory, each collapse feeds the next in the Afghan countryside.
The Taliban have negotiated Afghan troop surrenders in the past, but never at the scale and pace of the base collapses this month in the four provinces extending east, north and west of Kabul. The tactic has removed hundreds of government forces from the battlefield, secured strategic territory and reaped weapons, ammunition and vehicles for the Taliban — often without firing a shot.

21 April
Turkey postpones Afghanistan peace summit over Taliban no-show
The international conference, deemed essential for war-torn country’s future amid escalating violence, now to be held after Ramadan.

14 April
Afghanistan: Biden calls for end to ‘America’s longest war’
(BBC) The US will continue to support Afghanistan after withdrawing all US troops, but not “militarily,” President Joe Biden has pledged.
“It is time to end America’s longest war,” he said in a speech from the White House room where US airstrikes there were first declared in 2001.
The pull-out is to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, officials say.
At least 2,500 US troops are part of the 9,600-strong Nato Afghan mission.

13 April
UN and partners announce Afghan peace summit will convene in Turkey this month
(UN News) The UN together with Turkey, and Qatar, announced on Tuesday that a high-level conference aimed at ending decades of conflict in Afghanistan will go ahead beginning on 24 April, bringing together representatives of both the Afghan Government and the Taliban.

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