DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The Taliban’s attack on Afghan territory widened Wednesday, with insurgents maintaining control of nine of the country’s 34 provincial capitals.
Afghan and US officials are warning of catastrophic violence in the war-torn country of 39 million as the deadline for the withdrawal of all US troops draws closer to the end of August.
Nader Nadery, a senior member of the Afghan peace negotiation team, expressed serious concern about the rapidly deteriorating situation in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday.
“If the Taliban advance militarily, the region will be burned down. This war will not take place within Afghanistan’s borders,” Nadery told CNBC’s Capital Connection.
When asked what he thought was the most immediate threat to the international community, Nadery, who experienced decades of unrest in Afghanistan, described a potential surge in terrorist activity well beyond the country, fueled by a sense of victory over Western forces.
One fears a “consolidation of power for all terrorist groups”. [under] the roof of the Taliban and the space that the Taliban offer them, “said Nadery.
“The slogan of every jihadist terrorist group is, ‘Now that we have defeated the United States and its 42 allies in Afghanistan, we can go after them anywhere,'” added Nadery. “This slogan is a clear danger that will allow groups like Daesh (ISIS), Al-Qaeda and others to rally more people because they are on the rise, they feel triumphant.”
“Taliban members have told us to our faces that they have defeated the US and NATO allies,” he continued. “And that’s not going to be an easy slogan for them, it will be a danger to all disaffected young people in the region and in a wider global arena where they are banding around that slogan, and that’s not a simple respect.”
The international terrorism that emerges from a war-torn state is all too well known. Al-Qaeda grew in the 1990s when the group was given a haven by the Afghan Taliban government that provided a base for planning the 9/11 attacks that led to the first US invasion of the United States nearly 20 years ago Triggered Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s ongoing pursuit of power across Afghanistan is also supported by the group’s recent international legitimacy, beginning with the US-Taliban peace deal and recently its senior members’ visit to China, which was seen to appear to have warming ties with Beijing.
“Unfortunately, China has given them [the Taliban] recently a red carpet, these things have to end if we want to see a stable region, “said Nadery.
“You have to fight for yourself”
At the White House, President Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday that he had no regrets about his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, despite the Taliban’s shocking gains.
“You see, we’ve spent over a trillion dollars over twenty years, we’ve trained and upgraded over 300,000 Afghan forces,” Biden said.
“Afghan leaders need to come together,” added the president. “You have to fight for yourself, fight for your nation.”
In April, Biden ordered the full withdrawal of about 3,000 US soldiers from Afghanistan by September 11th.
The Pentagon’s colossal task of removing soldiers and equipment from Afghanistan is almost complete, and the US military mission is slated to end on August 31.
Since the US began its withdrawal from the war-torn country, the Taliban have made astounding strides on the battlefield, despite being vastly outnumbered by the Afghan military.
On Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, the Taliban occupied three Afghan provincial capitals and a local army headquarters in Kunduz. Wednesday’s gains give the Taliban about two-thirds control of the country.
In addition, the Taliban quickly captured five provincial capitals in Afghanistan over the weekend, three in one day alone.
An Afghan special forces member takes part in a military operation against Taliban fighters in the village of Kandak Anayat in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan, on July 23, 2021.
Ajmal Kakar | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that while the Biden administration wants to continue providing air support, the US military cannot do much else.
“We will certainly support from the air where and when possible, but this is not a substitute for the leadership on the ground, it is not a substitute for the political leadership in Kabul, it is not a substitute for using the skills and capacities that we know have, “Kirby said.
Kirby added that while the Pentagon is concerned to see such advances by the Taliban, the Afghan military must now capitalize on years of training from US and NATO coalition forces.
“They have an air force, the Taliban don’t. They have modern weapons and organizational skills, the Taliban don’t. They outnumber the Taliban,” said Kirby. “You have the benefits, and now is the really time to take advantage of those benefits.”
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks at a news conference at the Pentagon on January 28, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.
Yasin Öztürk | Agency Anadolu | Getty Images
In light of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the State Department is examining ways to downsize the US embassy in Kabul. About 600 US soldiers protect the embassy grounds.
“Obviously it’s a challenging security environment and if we were able we were confident and comfortable to have a larger staff presence there we would,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. when asked about the downsizing in Kabul.
“We evaluate the threat environment on a daily basis. The embassy is in regular contact with Washington with the most senior people in this building, who in turn are in regular contact with our colleagues on [National Security Council] at the White House, “Price added.
Amanda Macias contributed to this report from Washington.