The offensive could sign a strategic success. After briefly attempting in June to attack Kunduz, capital of the province of the same name in northwestern Afghanistan, the Taliban on Wednesday (July 7th) launched their first offensive against a provincial capital, Qala-e Naw, since start, in May, of their all-out campaign against the Afghan forces, launched in favor of the withdrawal of American troops from the country, now almost completed.
Hours after the US military announced it had completed “More than 90%” Its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban, who since May have seized large rural portions of Afghan territory and close to several large cities, entered Qala-e Naw on Wednesday morning. According to local officials, the Taliban are at the gates of the capital of Badghis province, causing panic among the population and allowing detainees to escape from prison.
Afghanistan is in a “Very delicate military situation” and the “War is raging” with the Taliban, said the Afghan Minister of Defense, Bismillah Mohammadi, on Wednesday after this first major offensive by the insurgents against a provincial capital. “I want to reassure you all, our national forces (…) will use all their power and resources to defend our homeland and our people ”, he added in a statement.
“The enemy has entered the city, all the districts [alentour] fell, the fighting started in town ”Badghis Governor Hessamuddin Shams said in a text message to reporters. The head of the provincial council of Badghis, Abdul Aziz Bek, had earlier confirmed to Agence France-Presse the entry of the Taliban and the fighting in the city. “Last night, officials from the provincial security services surrendered to the Taliban and the latter were in town this [mercredi] morning “, Abdul Aziz Bek announced. “The fighting continues at this very moment in various parts of the city”, he added, while specifying that “The city prison was opened and about two hundred prisoners fled”.
Member of the provincial council, Zia Gul Habibi said that the insurgents had seized the headquarters of the police and the local HQ of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence services. “The officials of the province took refuge in a military camp in town”, or “The fighting continues”, she continued.
Governor Shams later assured in a video message posted to Facebook, in which he appears with an assault rifle on his shoulder and magazines on his chest, that “All security forces (…) defend the city “ and “The enemy has suffered losses and is defeated”, while resounding bursts of heavy gunfire. He also claimed in an audio message that the Taliban “Withdrew” after having “Suffered losses”.
Delegations from the Afghan government and the Taliban met in Tehran on Wednesday, Iran’s foreign ministry said, after months of stalled negotiations between the two parties in Qatar. “Today the people and leaders of Afghanistan must make difficult decisions for the future of their country”, underlined the head of Iranian diplomacy, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the opening of the discussions, welcoming the American departure from the territory of its eastern neighbor.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a “High level delegation” had visited Iran “At the official invitation” from Tehran to meet “Afghan personalities” and discuss “The current situation in the country and find solutions through talks”.
Begun in May, the withdrawal of American troops was carried out with full force, despite the inexorable advance of the Taliban and the retreat of the Afghan forces, now deprived of crucial American air support. The final withdrawal of the US military will occur by the end of August, according to the White House. It will bring an end to twenty years of American intervention in the country, the longest war waged by the United States in its history.
The entry of the Taliban into Qala-e Naw will certainly deal another blow to the already considerably weakened morale of the Afghan forces, analysts say. The capture of Qala-e Naw by the Taliban would be “A strategic success, because it will have a psychological effect on the Afghan forces, which are losing ground quickly, like dominoes in the face of an unstoppable force”, explains Nishank Motwani, researcher specializing in Afghanistan. “This lightning advance [des talibans] lets fear that the days of the Afghan government are numbered “, he said, while the authorities in Kabul have promised to focus their efforts on the security of large cities, main roads and border towns.
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