The United States has called the war in Afghanistan over, but the conflict has entered a cyclone of violence that is pushing the civilian death toll to record levels. The military withdrawal of the first power and the allies of NATO has given wings to the advance of the Taliban in the territory, in which in a week they have taken control of six provincial capitals. The last to fall, this Monday, was Aibak, in the northern region of Samangan, and during the weekend three others did, including Kunduz, also in the north and one of the main cities of the country, which the Westerners had defended. as a strategic enclave. The radical group’s biting has been answered with a low profile by Washington, an indication that Joe Biden is not backing down on his plans.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki had already warned last Friday that the Taliban offensive was not going to alter the “difficult decisions” that a president must make, such as leaving Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban after 20 years of presence in the field. “He believes, and has said, that the Afghan Army has the training, resources and equipment to win and that now is the time for leadership and determination in the face of Taliban aggression and violence,” Psaki said. NATO spoke in a similar line on Monday, confirming that the withdrawal was going ahead.
Formal withdrawal of US troops will be completed on August 31, but the military dismantling became practically effective more than a month ago, with the abandonment of the Bagram air base, near the capital of Kabul, which was the most important – in addition to the last active one – used by the US Army. Now US air support for the Afghan Army comes from bases outside the country, located in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, with a power that has not served to counter the radicals. On the ground, Washington maintains a checkpoint of 650 troops to protect the Kabul airport and the US embassy.
Pentagon sources cited by The New York Times they noted this weekend that there were no plans to carry out more than a few limited airstrikes. According to these sources, for the past three weeks the United States has been using Reaper drones and fighter jets to target Taliban equipment, including heavy artillery, which threatens urban centers and official and diplomatic buildings. However, they admit that an air campaign would hardly undo the gains made by the Taliban, given the small deployment that remains in the country.
The effects of that limited scope have been apparent this weekend. Kunduz, which the Americans had helped to recover twice in the past, has ended up in the hands of the Taliban after several days of fighting. Also Zaranj, capital of the southern province of Minroz, Sar-e-Pul, in the homonymous province to the north, and Taloqan, province of Takhar, in the northwest.
At least 27 children have died and another 136 were injured in the last 72 hours, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Each of these deaths and each case of physical suffering is a personal tragedy. These children are daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends who are very dear and longed for, “laments Unicef, according to the statement collected by the Efe agency, which also regrets that the right to protection of Afghan children” has been ignored by the parties in conflict ”.
The allies were aware, from different intelligence services reports, that the Taliban would take advantage of the US and NATO withdrawal to reinforce themselves in Afghanistan and that the Afghan government would have difficulties controlling this assault. But after two decades, Washington sees no other way to end this conflict than simply to get out of it.
The George W. Bush Administration launched the offensive on October 7, 2001, following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
The United States accused the Taliban of serving as a hideout for Osama bin Ladem and other al Qaeda ringleaders responsible for the massacre and led an international coalition to wipe out that group and drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan. Bin Laden was liquidated by the United States in 2011, like other leaders of the terrorist group, and Al Qaedae is today a very weakened group. The Taliban, however, resist and strengthen themselves to the disgrace of the population, especially women, even seeking international legitimacy.
The US Embassy in Kabul has asked the radical group to lay down its arms and sit down to negotiate a road map for peace. “We call on the Taliban to accept a permanent and complete ceasefire and to participate fully in the peace negotiations to end the suffering of the Afghan people and pave the way for a political settlement that benefits all Afghans and ensures that Afghanistan does not once again serve as a safe haven for terrorists, ”he said in a statement.
Neither Washington nor NATO talk about which are the red lines that could bring allied troops back to Afghanistan, although the fall of Kandahar, the second largest city, or the capital, Kabul, would put them in a very difficult situation. The radical militia leaves the possibility of this offensive for later. In a statement to the RIA Novosti agency, its main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said: “First you have to clean up the other provinces and then the decision on Kabul is made.” China began direct talks with the radical group last month, a sign that it sees the winner of the pulse in the region.