The situation in Afghanistan is increasingly convulsive and the information coming out of the Central Asian country is sometimes contradictory. But one fact is clear: the rapid Taliban advance in the country since US President Joe Biden announced last April the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan and thus the end of the NATO mission.
The Taliban claim to control 85% of the Central Asian country. In recent weeks, the insurgents have also seized control of key border posts with neighbouring Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The last of these is the Boldak-Chaman crossing, the second most important border crossing with Pakistan and a major source of revenue for the Kabul government. However, Afghan security forces appear to have regained control of this key border crossing.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters that Taliban forces were still holding the crossing. "It is mere propaganda and an unsubstantiated claim by the Kabul administration," he told the news agency. The Taliban's seizure of multiple border crossings is clearly intended to weaken the Kabul government.
The insurgents are seeking to reduce the revenue flowing to the Kabul government while adding new sources of revenue at the borders. The seizure of Spin Boldak comes days after heavy fighting in Kandahar province, where the Afghan authorities were on the verge of losing the provincial capital. Neighbouring countries have been concerned about the Taliban's rapid advance. Pakistan closed the border crossing with Afghanistan at the town of Chaman.
The withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan has left a power vacuum within the ranks of the Afghan National Army, which now only controls the provincial capitals, while the Taliban have virtually taken over the entire countryside. Despite this imbalance of forces in the Central Asian country, the United States has already announced that it is going ahead with the plan to withdraw all its troops. US President Joe Biden last week set a deadline of 31 August. The Pentagon has also stated that the withdrawal of US forces is 90% complete.
Afghanistan is at a critical juncture, but according to the AFP news agency, the Taliban have reportedly offered the Afghan government a three-month ceasefire in exchange for the release of 7,000 of their prisoners. However, the Taliban said they were "not aware of any plans for a three-month ceasefire". Meanwhile, Nader Naderi, a member of the Kabul government's negotiating team at peace talks with the group in Qatar, has been sceptical of the insurgents' conditions for a ceasefire. Naderi described the Taliban's offer, during a press conference in Kabul, as "a considerable demand", adding that they also demanded that the names of the movement's leaders be removed from a UN "blacklist".
Naderi noted that the previous release of 5,000 Taliban last year, a condition set for the opening of inter-Afghan talks, "did not help the situation and that violence even increased". In this context, it is unlikely that the government in Kabul and the insurgents will be able to reach an agreement on a cessation of hostilities while the peace talks in Doha are completely blocked.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in the face of instability in the country, has begun a two-day trip to Uzbekistan to participate in a regional economic summit that will include delegations from the United States, Russia and the European Union. On the agenda are security issues and of course the situation in Afghanistan.
During the summit, which is taking place in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, the US National Security Advisor to the President, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, has assured that the United States will continue to "support negotiations to reach a political solution that gives the Afghan people the peace they deserve and builds a stronger regional and international foundation of support for Afghanistan's future".