Powered by Pakistan, Taliban racing towards Kabul
With its weapons, logistics and medical supplies intact from Pakistan, the Taliban are on a military rampage in north Afghanistan with the objective of cutting off Ashraf Ghani government's trade revenue and supply lines from Central Asia and Iran. According to one diplomat in Kabul, the Taliban has a Quetta Shura or high council and a Miramshah Shura but the most important is the Rawalpindi Shura, reference to the headquarters of ISI, which is the real power behind the Islamist Sunni Pashtun force. "Military capture of Kabul by Taliban will not only give strategic space to Pakistan but also trained terrorist cadre to target their adversaries," said a former Indian foreign secretary.
The Taliban have intensified their campaign, capturing five provincial capitals in two days. The latest to fall is Kunduz, the capital of northern Kunduz province. Over the weekend, they took Sar-e-Pul, the headquarters of the northern province of the same name, Zaranj, the capital of western Nimroz province, Sheberghan, the capital of northern Zawzjan province, and Taleqan, the capital of another northern province with the same name in their control.
On Monday, the Taliban fighters captured Aybak, capital of the northern province of Samangan. Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, is also under their control.
The Taliban are also targeting Laghman province in east Afghanistan, continuously attacking the area on the border between Abshar Panjshir and Shahin districts. In the west, near the border with Iran, security officials said heavy fighting was under way on the outskirts of Herat. Authorities said that 36 people had been killed and 220 wounded over the past 11 days. More than half of the wounded are civilians.
Fierce fighting is going on in Badakhshan too. While the Taliban are hell-bent on capturing the province, the Afghan security forces have deployed a new batch of commando special forces in capital city Faizabad to stop the terror group. Afghan army said in a statement that Taliban fighters attacked Faizabad from four directions on Saturday, but fled after facing stiff resistance. The army further said that 35 attackers were killed and 25 others injured in the gunbattle.
The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) said that 579 Taliban terrorists were killed and 161 others were injured in their operations across Afghanistan on Sunday.
President Ashraf Ghani has been holding a series of meetings to find a solution to the Taliban problem. He met prominent political and religious leaders of the country on Sunday and urged their support for the elected government and Afghan security forces. He announced tariff relaxations on basic food items on border crossing posts and ports after the business community of Afghanistan expressed its concern.
Those involved in the peace process, like former president Hamid Karzai, have also been holding meetings to stop the Taliban. On Sunday, Karzai met United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons and Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon and discussed the current situation in the country.
The members of Afghanistan's lower house have claimed that more than 60% of customs revenue is now being collected by the Taliban after they captured border crossing posts. The amount is significant - about 200 million AFN (or $2.5 million) per day. A parliamentarian Abdul Satar Hussaini said that it's unfortunate that the Taliban collects government income and transfers it to Pakistan and demanded a united front against the terror group.
The insurgents have captured Babur Ishchi, head of Jawzjan provincial council, who was surrounded by the Taliban along with his 20 fighters after hours of clashes against the group in Khawja Do Koh district last week. Local media reported that he was forced to surrender. Though the Taliban released all his fighters, they took Ishchi with his brother Bator along with them.
The US embassy in Kabul condemned these attacks and said that violence is not going to get Taliban the international legitimacy which they are looking for. The embassy stressed that the group should devote its energy to take the peace process forward in place of a military campaign.
Charge d'Affaires of the US embassy, Ross Wilson, told a local news media outlet on Sunday that the Taliban have not honoured the commitment made in accordance with the Doha deal. He also argued that Pakistan can play a crucial role in the Afghan peace process in order to end the conflict in the country.
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