The UN envoy to Afghanistan warns of a strong advance by the Taliban as the Americans withdraw their troops. In recent weeks, the Taliban have taken at least 50 of the country’s 370 districts.
The US wants its troops out of Afghanistan by September 11. That departure date is maintained, but the Pentagon has indicated that the withdrawal may be more gradual than initially planned.
In northern Afghanistan, the Taliban also control the main border post with neighbouring Tajikistan and the districts leading to Kunduz, the capital of northeastern Afghanistan.
According to local politicians, the Taliban have taken over the Shir Khan Banda border crossing, linking Afghanistan to the rest of Central Asia. The border post is said to have been captured by the Taliban after hours of fighting today.
The Taliban had taken control of more than 50 of Afghanistan’s 370 districts since early May when the Americans began withdrawing their troops. The withdrawal should be complete by September 11, exactly 20 years after the attacks in New York and Washington that sparked the invasion of Afghanistan.
However, a Pentagon, US Department of Defense spokesman said today that the pace of the withdrawal might become more gradual if the situation continues to deteriorate. But the departure date of September 11 remains fixed.
“The escalating conflict means growing uncertainty for several other countries, near and far,” warns UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan Deborah Lyons. The Taliban have currently seized districts around provincial capitals, she says, but that suggests they plan to take those cities themselves once foreign troops leave Afghanistan.