WASHINGTON: Taliban insurgents tightened their grip on captured Afghan territory on Wednesday, now controlling 65 per cent of the country, as US President Joe Biden urged the nation’s leaders to fight for their homeland.
He urged Afghanistan’s leaders to fight for their homeland as the Taliban armed group tightens its grip on the country’s territory.
“Afghan leaders have to come together,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, adding the Afghan troops outnumber the Taliban and must want to fight.
“They have got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”
The US president said he does not regret his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, noting that Washington has spent more than $1 trillion over 20 years and lost thousands of soldiers.
He said the US continues to provide significant air support, food, equipment and salaries to Afghan forces.
“Afghan leaders have to come together,” Biden told reporters at the White House, saying the Afghan troops outnumber the Taliban and must want to fight. “They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”
Joe Biden said he does not regret his decision to withdraw, noting that Washington has spent more than $1 trillion over 20 years and lost thousands of troops. He said the United States continues to provide significant air support, food, equipment and salaries to Afghan forces.
In Kabul, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was seeking help from regional militias he has squabbled with for years. He appealed to civilians to defend Afghanistan’s “democratic fabric”.
In Aibak, a provincial capital between the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, Taliban fighters were moving into government buildings. Most government forces appeared to have withdrawn.
“The only way is self-imposed house arrest or to find a way to leave for Kabul,” said tax officer Sher Mohamed Abbas, when asked about living conditions in Aibak.
“But then even Kabul is not a safe option anymore,” said Abbas, who supports a family of nine.
The north for years was Afghanistan’s most peaceful region, with only a minimal Taliban presence. The militants’ strategy appears to be to take the north, and border crossings in the north, west and south, and then close in on Kabul.
The Taliban, battling to defeat the US-backed government and reimpose their strict interpretation of Islamic law with peace talks at an impasse, met little resistance as they swept into Aibak on Monday.
A spokesman for the group’s political office told Al Jazeera TV on Tuesday that the group is committed to the negotiation path in Doha and does not want it to collapse.
Taliban forces now control 65pc of Afghanistan, threaten to take 11 provincial capitals and seek to deprive Kabul of its traditional support from national forces in the north, a senior European Union (EU) official said on Tuesday.
The government has withdrawn from hard-to-defend rural districts to focus on holding population centres. Officials have appealed for pressure on Pakistan to stop Taliban reinforcements and supplies flowing over the border. Pakistan denies backing the Taliban.
The United States has been carrying out some airstrikes to support government troops. Defence Department spokesman John Kirby said the strikes were having a “kinetic” effect on the Taliban, but acknowledged limitations.
“Nobody has suggested here that airstrikes are a panacea, that will solve all the problems of the conditions on the ground. We’ve never said that,” Kirby said.
Taliban capture more areas
Taliban fighters took control of another city in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, an official said, the eighth provincial capital to fall to the insurgents in six days as U.S.-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal.
The Taliban capture of Faizabad, capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan, came as President Ashraf Ghani landed in Mazar-i-Sharif to rally its defenders as Taliban forces closed in on the biggest city in the north.
Jawad Mujadidi, a provincial council member from Badakhshan, said the Taliban had laid siege to Faizabad before launching an offensive on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, after hours of heavy fighting the ANDSF retreated,” Mujadidi told Reuters, referring to national security forces.
“With the fall of Faizabad the whole of the northeast has come under Taliban control.”
Badakhshan borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China.
The loss of the city is the latest setback for the beleaguered government, which has been struggling to stem the momentum of Taliban assaults in the last .
The Taliban are battling to defeat the U.S-backed government and reimpose strict Islamic law. The speed of their advance has shocked the government and its allies.
Taliban forces now control 65% of Afghanistan, have taken or threaten to take 11 provincial capitals and seek to deprive Kabul of its traditional support from national forces in the north, a senior European Union official said on Tuesday.
Pressure on Pakistan
Afghan officials have appealed for pressure on Pakistan to stop Taliban reinforcements and supplies flowing over the border. Pakistan denies backing the Taliban.
The government has withdrawn its forces from some hard-to-defend rural districts to focus on holding population centres. In some places, government forces have given up without a fight.
Ghani is now appealing for help from the old regional powerbrokers he spent years sidelining as he attempted to project the authority of his central government over traditionally wayward provinces.
He was due to meet regional leaders in Mazar-i-Sharif to work out coordination between the security forces and militias and operations to take back areas the Taliban captured, Tolo News reported.
In the south, government forces government forces are battling Taliban fighters trying to reach Kandahar province’s main prison to release detained comrades, officials there said.
Thousands of civilians from outlying areas had taken refuge in Kandahar city, a resident said.
Fighting was also taking place in city of Farah in the west, near the Iranian border, while the Ministry of Defence said in a statement security forces had also battled Taliban in Laghman, Logar, Paktia, Uruzgan, Zabul, Ghor, Balkh, Helmand, Kapisa and Baghlan provinces and 431 Taliban had been killed.