The Taliban terror group has launched 22,000 attacks on the Afghan military in the past four months, the legitimate government of Afghanistan revealed on Thursday.
President Joe Biden announced in April that he would break an agreement brokered between the Taliban and the administration of predecessor Donald Trump that would have seen U.S. troops out of the country by May 1. Instead, Biden first said troops would stay through September 11, but has since recalibrated the withdrawal deadline to August 31.
Afghanistan’s State Ministry for Peace published its latest four-month report on the decades-long war’s civilian casualties, detailing that 5,587 civilians died from a combined 93 suicide attacks, 650 rocket shells, 1,675 mine detonations, and 844 Taliban assassinations during the period. The Taliban have suffered 24,609 casualties during their latest offensive, the report asserted.
Khaama Press, an Afghan news outlet, noted the ongoing violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of families including 22,000 in the besieged southern city of Kandahar alone. Taliban forces have also reportedly shuttered 621 schools and rendered 42 percent of the nation’s students without access to education in so doing.
The Biden administration announced in April that the U.S. would withdraw all of its remaining troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in New York City that prompted the initial American invasion and ouster of the Taliban regime. The move violated a deal Biden’s predecessor, Trump, negotiated with the Taliban to leave Afghanistan by May 1 of this year in exchange for the Taliban ceasing attacks on U.S. forces and disavowing international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. Biden has since adjusted the withdrawal date to August 31.
Biden’s extension of the American drawdown prompted outrage from the Taliban, which has since insisted Biden’s actions render the group unbound by the deal it negotiated with Trump. Immediately following the April announcement, the Taliban escalated its attacks against the Afghan military. In response, thousands of Kabul forces have reportedly thrown down their weapons, fleeing for neighboring countries like Tajikistan or outright defecting to the Taliban.
The Taliban swept through northeastern Afghanistan this month, seizing most of Badakhshan and the Tajik border region, prompting Dushanbe to seek Russian military aid in handling the inflow of refugees and deserters fleeing the Taliban advance. Prior to the U.S. invasion, northeastern Afghanistan was the only part of the country not under the direct authority of the Taliban. As of early July, the Taliban controlled at least two-thirds of the Tajik border, according to Dushanbe, though they seem to have since consolidated control over most of the region.
Exact battle lines remain unclear, as both the Taliban and Kabul have apparently exaggerated the strength of their own military positions. The terror group told Moscow that it controlled “85 percent of Afghanistan’s territory” and “about 250 of Afghanistan’s nearly 400 districts.” The Taliban delegation aimed to assure the Russian government that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists under a restored Taliban regime, a questionable prospect given the group’s repudiation of the deal it made with Trump and subsequent denials that it ever agreed to cut ties with al-Qaeda at all.
Taliban advances in the country are, however, undeniable, with major cities like Kandahar and Herat becoming islands of government control surrounded by Taliban-occupied territory. The Long War Journal (LWJ), an independent operation dedicated to mapping the territorial changes within the country, currently asserts that the Taliban controls 222 districts, and maintains a heavy presence in another 114, including those surrounding Kabul. Only 71 districts remain firmly in government hands. The LWJ figures paint a slightly more modest picture of Taliban control than the group’s own estimates.
The Biden administration has remained adamant that the Kabul government could maintain control of the capital and check the Taliban advance, though it recently conceded it was “highly unlikely” the government would secure control of the entire nation.
Taliban military advances seem to have emboldened the group diplomatically, as the group’s control of a majority of Afghan territory gives its claim to be the actual government some credibility in the eyes of its neighbors. Islamist Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan recently derided the U.S. for believing it would ever keep the Taliban out of power. Pakistan has long offered support to the Afghan Taliban while nominally outlawing its most extreme wing to placate the international community.
China has offered kind words for the insurgents, insisting they are not terrorists and signaling a desire to coexist peacefully with the Taliban. Foreign Minister Wang Yi formally received a Taliban delegation this week to discuss security issues with a particular emphasis on those pertaining to the non-existent East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which supposedly works against the Chinese occupation of Xinjiang, a majority-Muslim area bordering Afghanistan. The group largely serves as a premise for Beijing’s ongoing reeducation and genocide of the local Uighur population in Xinjiang. No evidence exists that the group conducts any activities at all. This year, Kabul released a number of Chinese operatives caught attempted to fabricate the existence of an ETIM cell within Afghanistan.