Members of the Afghan police have revealed that the Taliban have taken control of Kunduz province, the last major city the Taliban briefly gained control of through a lightning attack in 2015. Subsequent military responses by Afghan Government Forces and the United States along with NATO aerial bombardment succeeded in repelling the attack and recapturing the city, which has now been reoccupied following Taliban aggression.
According to local officials, the Taliban have managed to enter two provincial capitals in northern Afghanistan where the offensive has been rapid: in total, the Taliban are said to have captured at least 17 districts in the last 24 hours, as well as spreading the war across the country, according to Tolo News, the first Afghan news channel.
These dizzying offensives have taken place against the backdrop of the withdrawal of US troops from the country. The measure was ordered by former US President Donald Trump, with the subsequent approval of current President Joe Biden. In this sense, Biden informed that the withdrawal of troops, designated for 11 September, would be brought forward to mid-July. In this way, the withdrawal would put an end to one of the longest and most costly US wars since, according to AFP, more than two billion dollars had been invested and 2,442 US soldiers had lost their lives.
According to Afghan police spokesman Inamuddin Rahmani's statement to the Associated Press, "the fighting in Imam Sahib district began on Sunday night and by midday Monday the Taliban had taken control of the area and the police headquarters".
Last May, Taliban forces managed to enter Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Helmand province. However, US assistance and military action by Afghan forces, along with air strikes, pushed the insurgents back. The new offensives have alarmed Afghan society and caused the Pentagon to reconsider slowing down the withdrawal, according to US defence spokesman John Kirby.
The spokesman said that plans to withdraw troops "could change if the situation changes"; along with this, he told a press conference that they want to "maintain the flexibility to do so". Even so, he reiterated that the final withdrawal of troops remains effectively on schedule and that US forces will only be retained to "protect the diplomatic presence".
However, this withdrawal raises concerns that Afghan troops will no longer be able to rely on US combat support. In this regard, air support has been significantly reduced and many US aircraft are now based outside Afghanistan. Moreover, in Kabul, military reinforcements have multiplied in order to fend off potential Taliban hostilities. Even so, the group has managed to lay siege to rural and local areas while government forces have only managed to retake a small number of districts.
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has recalled that "the Embassy will remain open", but the withdrawal of the US presence is imminent. According to La Vanguardia, in the last 24 hours the insurgency in Kunduz has claimed the lives of 150 soldiers and policemen, a fact that has caused great concern due to the rapid expansion of the insurgents.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his government's chief negotiator in talks with the Taliban, Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah, at the White House on Friday. In a statement, Washington said that "the visit by President Ghani and Dr Abdullah will underscore the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan as the military withdrawal continues". Thus, from the Oval Office, the US has pledged to support the Afghan people through diplomatic, humanitarian and economic assistance.