Kabul: After the U.S. forces withdrew from a war-torn country and launched a full-scale offensive, the Taliban claimed on Friday to control 85% of Afghanistan, including a key border crossing with Iran.
A few hours after President Joe Biden issued a firm defense of the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban stated that the Taliban militants had occupied the border town of Islamkala-completing a territorial arc from the Iranian border to the Chinese border.
In Moscow, a delegation of Taliban officials stated that they control about 250 of the 398 areas in Afghanistan-a statement that cannot be independently verified, and the government disputes this.
In addition, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP that the Islamic Qala border crossing is “under our complete control”, and government officials in Kabul said they were fighting back.
“All Afghan security forces including the border units are present in the area, and efforts are under way to recapture the site,” interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told AFP.
Hours earlier, Biden said the US military mission would end on August 31 — nearly 20 years after it began — having “achieved” its goals.
But he admitted it was “highly unlikely” Kabul would be able to control the entire country.
“The status quo is not an option,” Biden said of staying in the country. “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan.”
Since the Taliban have destroyed most of northern Afghanistan in recent weeks, the government only controls a cluster of provincial capitals, which must be strengthened and air-supplied to a large extent.
Even before the Taliban’s lightning offensive overwhelmed the government’s northern and western positions, the Air Force was already under severe pressure, putting further pressure on the country’s limited aircraft and pilots.
Biden said that only the Afghan people can determine their future, but he acknowledged the uncertainty of what the future will look like.
When asked if the Taliban takeover is inevitable, the president said: “No, it’s not the case.”
However, he admitted that “the possibility of the unified government of Afghanistan controlling the entire country is extremely small.”
As far as the Taliban are concerned, they welcomed Biden’s statement.
“Any day or hour that the US and foreign troops leave early is a positive step,” spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told AFP.
Afghan commandos clashed with insurgents in the provincial capital for the first time this week. Thousands of people fled Qala-i-Naw in the northwestern part of Badghis Province.
President Ashraf Ghani said that the government can handle this situation, but acknowledged the difficulties.
“What we are witnessing is one of the most complicated stages of the transition,” he said in a speech in Kabul.
“Legitimacy is ours; God is with us.”
The Taliban have been emboldened by the troop withdrawal and, with peace talks with the government deadlocked, appear to be pressing for a full military victory.
Still, on Thursday a member of the negotiating team in Doha insisted the insurgents were seeking a “negotiated settlement”.
“We do not believe in monopoly of power,” spokesman Shaheen told AFP.
In Moscow, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said the Taliban controlled about two-thirds of the Afghan-Tajik border as a delegation from the insurgents wound up a visit.
Some “85 percent of Afghanistan’s territory” was under the group’s control, said Taliban negotiator Shahabuddin Delawar.
This week more than 1,000 Afghan troops fled into Tajikistan in the face of a Taliban onslaught.