As foreign forces withdraw, Taliban claim 85% Afghan territories under control
- Three Taliban officials, who are visiting the Russian capital Moscow, said that they will take all steps to make sure that Islamic State does not function on Afghan territory.
Amid the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of fighting, the Taliban on Friday said they have taken control of 85 per cent of Afghan territory. Afghan government officials, however, quashed the claims, calling it propaganda. But local officials said Taliban fighters, stirred by the withdrawal, have already captured a vital district in Herat province that houses several minority Shi’ite Hazaras, according to news agency Reuters.
Hundreds of Afghan security personnel and refugees continued to escape across the border to neighbouring countries of Iran and Tajikistan, thereby causing concern in Moscow and other foreign capitals that the radical Islamic group would infiltrate Central Asia. Besides the district in Herat province, the Taliban took control of a northern town of Afghanistan on the Turkmenistan border called Torghundi, Afghan and Taliban officials said.
To address these issues, three visiting Taliban officials held a press conference during a visit to Moscow on Friday. “We will take all measures so that Islamic State will not operate on Afghan territory…and our territory will never be used against our neighbours,” Shahabuddin Delawar, one of the Taliban officials, told the news conference.
The same Taliban delegation had said on Thursday that they will not attack the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, the fate of which is being closely watched in Central Asia and Russia.
Meanwhile, as fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban continues, humanitarian concerns pertaining to getting medicines and supplies into Afghanistan has become an issue, with some staff having fled after facilities came under attack.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional emergencies director, Rick Brennan, said that at least 18.4 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 3.1 million children at risk of acute malnutrition.
“We are concerned about our lack of access to be able to provide essential medicines and supplies and we are concerned about attacks on health care,” he told a United Nations briefing in Geneva while speaking virtually from Cairo in Egypt.
Some medical aids including 3.5 million vaccine doses against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and oxygen concentrators will arrive in Afghanistan by next week. The vaccines include Johnson and Johnson’s shots donated by the US and AstraZeneca doses via the Covax facility.
Although Pentagon spokesman John Kirby denied to comment on how much territory the Taliban held in Afghanistan, he said that now is the time for Afghan forces to “defend their country, their people.”
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden stated that the Afghan people must decide their own future, and that he won’t send another generation of Americans to a two-decade-long war. He has set August 31 as the deadline for final withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, excluding nearly 650 troops to offer security for the US embassy in Kabul.
Recent reports suggest that Taliban have issued new regulations and laws in districts that they have captured in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Takhar. These include directing women to not leave home alone and men to grow beards, among others. According to Ariana News, civil society activists in Takhar said that Taliban have also set dowry regulations for girls.