Afghanistan’s war will spread beyond its borders as Taliban advances, senior negotiator warns
Officials have warned of catastrophic violence in Afghanistan as the deadline approaches for all U.S. troops to withdraw by the end of August. "If the Taliban advances militarily, the region will be burned. This war will not be contained within the borders of Afghanistan," said Nader Nadery, a senior member of the Afghan Peace Negotiation Team. Nadery warned that the Taliban believes they have defeated the U.S. and NATO, which will embolden jihadist and terrorist groups.
If the Taliban takes Afghanistan's capital by force it will make them global pariahs, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
Khalilzad traveled to Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban holds a political office, to tell the group that there is no point in pursuing overall control of Afghanistan through a military takeover. He hopes this will discourage the Taliban from its ongoing fighting and persuade them to return to peace talks with the Afghan government as NATO forces finish withdrawing from the country.
Taliban back brutal rule as they strike for power
Afghanistan's ex-rulers still back brutal punishments as they continue a deadly advance towards power.The "ghanimat" or spoils of war they're showing off include a Humvee, two pick-up vans and a host of powerful machine guns. Ainuddin, a stony-faced former madrassa (religious school) student who's now a local military commander, stands at the centre of a heavily-armed crowd.
The Taliban captured five of the nation's 34 provincial capitals in less than a week. They are now battling against the Western-backed government for the control of several others, including Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Farah.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:
After a 20-year Western military mission and billions of dollars spent training and shoring up Afghan forces, many are at odds to explain why the regular forces have collapsed, fleeing the battle sometimes by the hundreds. The fighting has fallen largely to small groups of elite forces and the Afghan air force.
The success of the Taliban blitz has added urgency to the need to restart the long-stalled talks that could end the fighting and move Afghanistan toward an inclusive interim administration.
After U.S. Withdrawal, Taliban Targets New Enemies: Women, Art, Education
"The Taliban will use any tools they have to whitewash and destroy any symbol of modernity, liberty or freedom of choice," mural artist Omaid Sharifi told Newsweek.As it takes power once again after a two-decade hiatus, it brings with it a well-earned reputation for historical and cultural violence. There have been reports of human rights abuses and clear attempts to limit the personal freedom of citizens.
The new pressure from Khalilzad follows condemnations from the international community and a similar warning from the United Nations that a Taliban government that takes power by force would not be recognized. The insurgents have so far refused to return to the negotiating table.
Khalilzad's mission in Qatar is to "help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan," according to the U.S. State Department.
He plans to "press the Taliban to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement, which is the only path to stability and development in Afghanistan," the State Department said.
Meanwhile, the Taliban military chief released an audio message to his fighters on Tuesday, ordering them not to harm Afghan forces and government officials in territories they conquer. The recording was shared on Twitter by the Taliban spokesman in Doha, Mohammad Naim.
U.S. engagement in Afghanistan: Past, present and future
CBS News intelligence and national security reporter Olivia Gazis interviews three top former intelligence officials about U.S. engagement in Afghanistan. Panelists Michael Morell, former CIA deputy director and Intelligence Matters host, Michael Vickers, former Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and CIA operations officer, and Philip Reilly, former Chief of Operations at CIA's Counterterrorism Center and Kabul station chief, each weigh in on the implications of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the future of the counterterrorism mission in the region.
In the nearly five-minute audio, Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, also told the insurgents to stay out of abandoned homes of government and security officials who have fled, leave marketplaces open and protect places of business, including banks.
It was not immediately clear if Taliban fighters on the ground would heed Yaqoob's instructions. Some civilians who have fled Taliban advances have reported that the insurgents imposed repressive restrictions on women and burned down schools.
There have also been reports of revenge killings in areas where the Taliban have gained control. The insurgents have claimed responsibility for killing a comedian in southern Kandahar, assassinating the government's media chief Kabul and a bombing that targeted acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, killing eight and wounding more. The minister was not harmed in the attack.
The intensifying war has driven thousands of people to Kabul, and many are living in parks without adequate access to water and other necessities in the summer heat. The fighting has also increased the number of civilian casualties.
Afghans in a city under siege by the Taliban: ‘The insecurity has upended our lives’
As the militant group tightened its grip on the area, many residents of the western city of Herat worry about what the future holds.Thousands of families have been forced to leave their homes in Afghanistan over the past few months as fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces intensified.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that its staff has treated more than 4,000 Afghans this month in their 15 facilities across the country, including in Helmand and Kandahar, where Afghan and U.S. airstrikes are trying to rein in the Taliban onslaught.
"We are seeing homes destroyed, medical staff and patients put at tremendous risk, and hospitals, electricity and water infrastructure damaged," Eloi Fillion, ICRC's head of delegation in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
"The use of explosive weaponry in cities is having an indiscriminate impact on the population," Fillion added. "Many families have no option but to flee in search of a safer place. This must stop."
The surge in Taliban attacks began in April, when the U.S. and NATO announced they would end their military presence and bring the last of their troops home. The final date of the withdrawal is Aug. 31, but the U.S. Central Command has said the pullout is already 95 percent complete.
On Monday, the U.S. emphasized that the Biden administration now sees the fight as one for Afghan political and military leaders to win or lose—and showed no sign of stepping up airstrikes despite the accelerating Taliban gains.
"When we look back, it's going to come down to leadership and what leadership was demonstrated, or not" by Afghans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a Pentagon news conference. "It's their country to defend now. It's their struggle."
Afghan forces fold as rapid Taliban advances test will of government troops
Khalilzad, the architect of the peace deal the Trump administration brokered with the Taliban, was expected to hold talks with key regional players, as well as unspecified multilateral organizations to see how to restart talks and halt the Taliban onslaught.
The U.S. envoy will also likely seek a commitment from Afghanistan's neighbors and other counties in the wider region not to recognize a Taliban government that comes to power by force. When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan, three countries recognized their rule: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Senior Afghan officials have also traveled to Doha, including Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the government's reconciliation council. Pakistan's national security adviser, Moeed Yusuf, on Monday called for "reinvigorated" efforts to get all sides in the conflict back to talks, describing a protracted war in Afghanistan as a "nightmare scenario" for Pakistan.
Yusuf, speaking to foreign journalists in Islamabad, refused to definitively say whether Pakistan, which holds considerable sway over the Taliban, would recognize a Taliban government installed by force, saying instead that Pakistan wants to see an "inclusive" government in Kabul.
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Despite soothing words, the Taliban are much as they were .
How Taliban 2.0 will rule, two decades later, is far from clear -- but there are a few straws in the wind. And they suggest the Taliban see little need to change. They believe their success was God-given. Anas Haqqani, a member of Afghanistan's most powerful family, told CNN that the Taliban "succeeded against 52 [countries]. It is not due to the worldly plan; it is because of the blessing of the faith." It followed that running the country would have but one inspiration.