Afghan conflict bleeds the country

At least 1,659 people have been killed and 3,254 injured between January and June this year as a result of the conflict and thousands of Afghan soldiers have fled to neighbouring countries
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REUTERS/DRAZEN JORGIC  -   Pakistani soldiers stand guard as citizens return from Afghanistan in the border town of Chaman, Pakistan

The situation in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly critical and the Taliban's advance threatens the outbreak of a new civil war in the Central Asian country. The withdrawal of international troops, following the announcement by US President Joe Biden, has prompted an offensive by the insurgent group, which since May has managed to capture nearly 125 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, the largest number in such a short period of time.

The pressing instability in Afghanistan is beginning to take its toll on neighbouring countries. Russia has mobilised its troops on the borders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with Afghanistan where it will conduct military exercises during August. The mobilisation of tanks and soldiers to the border with Afghanistan, under the pretext of carrying out military manoeuvres, coincides with the advance of the Taliban in the Central Asian country, who in recent weeks have managed to take control of several border posts with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

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AFP/AFP - Map of Central Asia showing Tajikistan, where Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are to hold military exercises near the border with Afghanistan

In addition to having to deal with the Taliban offensive, the Kabul government has to deal with a new diplomatic crisis with Pakistan, which it has accused on several occasions of supporting the insurgents. In mid-July, Kabul accused Islamabad of torpedoing an offensive by Afghan forces to retake control of the Spin Boldak-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan. For its part, the government in Islamabad denied these accusations and stressed "the right of the Afghan government to take action in its sovereign territory".

Likewise, last Monday, in view of the delicate situation in the Central Asian country that is spreading to the neighbouring country, the Kabul government decided to withdraw its diplomatic staff in Islamabad after the daughter of its ambassador was briefly kidnapped and tortured. Afghanistan's foreign ministry said the ambassador and the rest of its diplomatic staff will remain in Kabul until the perpetrators of the abduction "are punished by the Pakistani government and the Afghan ambassador and the safety of diplomatic staff in Pakistan is ensured".

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Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS - Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan

Amid tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan forty-six Afghan soldiers took refuge in the neighbouring country after losing control of military positions across the border following advances by Taliban insurgents, the Pakistani Army (ISPR) has reported. Hundreds of Afghan army soldiers and civilian officials have also fled to Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan in recent weeks following the insurgent group's offensive in several border areas.

According to the official ISPR statement, "these Afghan soldiers arrived in the Arundu sector of Chitral late in the evening. After contact with the Afghan authorities and necessary military formalities, 46 soldiers, including five officers, have been given safe haven and safe passage to Pakistan". The Afghan soldiers have been provided with food, shelter and necessary medical care in accordance with established military standards," the statement added.

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PHOTO/ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICJHENKO via REUTERS - Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban deputy leader and negotiator, and other delegation members attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow, Russia

The statement also noted that the soldiers and officers would be returned to the Afghan government in a "dignified manner after due process". In early July, more than 1,000 members of the Afghan Security Forces fled across the border into Tajikistan following Taliban advances in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban seized six key districts in the northern province of Badakshan, bordering Tajikistan and China, after which 1,037 Afghan military personnel fled across the border with Tajikistan's permission.

This upsurge in violence in Afghanistan is reflected in the latest report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which states that civilian casualties have increased by 47% in the Central Asian country during the first half of the year, coinciding with the withdrawal of international troops from the country. At least 1,659 people have been killed and 3,254 injured between January and June this year as a result of the conflict, according to UNAMA.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Afghan men carry the body of a civilian in a hospital after an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan

Despite the difficult situation in the Central Asian country, intra-Fghan talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban remain blocked. On 16 July, the two delegations met again in the framework of the peace talks process in Qatar, but the only thing that was agreed upon was the continuation of the talks. According to the Afghan television channel Tolo TV, the next meeting could take place in early August.