Taliban Accelerates Its "Victory March"; Families Forced To Flee As Several Districts Captured In Northern Afghanistan

Taliban Accelerates Its "Victory March"; Families Forced To Flee As Several Districts Captured In Northern AfghanistanTaliban fighters at a training camp in Kandahar (Pic via Long War Journal)
Snapshot
  • An Afghanistan overrun by the Taliban will most likely reinstate harsh practices that defined its rule, including extreme persecution of the Hindu-Sikh population, and oppression of women.

The Taliban accelerated its march through northern Afghanistan, capturing overnight several districts in Badakhshan province.

The stationed Afghan forces fled in front of an ascendant Taliban and several hundred of them escaped across the border into Tajikistan. The latter said in an official statement that more than 300 Afghan military personnel had crossed into Tajikistan as insurgents advanced toward the border.

"In the last three days, 10 districts in the province fell to the Taliban, eight without a fight," Mohib-ul Rahman, a provincial council member was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

In mid-April, US President Joe Biden announced the end to Afghanistan’s “forever war” and complete withdrawal of forces by 11 September this year. Since then, the Taliban have only increased their attacks and captured more territory throughout the country. Reportedly, most of their gains have been in northern Afghanistan.

This assumes significance as the northern half of the country has been a traditional stronghold of the United States-allied warlords who helped defeat Taliban in 2001.

After fierce night-time fighting with Afghan government forces, Taliban was also able to capture a key district — Panjwai — in the southern province of Kandahar, their former bastion and birthplace. The leader of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, hails from Panjwai.

Panjwai district Governor Hasti Mohammad said Afghan forces and the Taliban clashed during the night, resulting in government forces retreating from the area.

“The Taliban have captured the district police headquarters and the governor’s office building,” he said.

The fall of Panjwai comes just two days after the United States (US) and NATO forces vacated their main Bagram Air Base near Kabul from where they led operations against the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies.

Taliban capture of the district reportedly forced scores of families to flee from the area. “The Taliban fired on our car as I was fleeing with my family. At least five bullets hit my car,” Giran, a resident of Panjwai, was quoted as saying.

“The Taliban are on top of the mountains and firing at any moving vehicles. The Taliban don’t want peace,” he added.

Assadullah, a commander of border police in the area, said it was only the police force that was fighting against the insurgents. “The army and the commandos who have better military equipment are not fighting at all,” he said.

Over the years, Panjwai has seen regular clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces, with the former aiming to seize it given its proximity to Kandahar city, the capital of Kandahar province. Panjwai is the fifth district in the province to fall to the Taliban in recent weeks.

Game Over?

The Taliban now control around 40 per cent of all 421 districts and district centres in Afghanistan. According to the Long War Journal, the Taliban controlled 73 districts before first May 1, and within two months, the number of districts went up to 168.

Even when the talks with US were going on over ending the war and withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil (a key demand of Taliban), the terror group continued attacks on innocent civilians as well as the Afghan government.

As an Indian diplomat said, the Afghan government entered the negotiations knowing that they are a death sentence on itself.

The attacks and capture of territory is a clear signal by the Taliban regarding 'who won the war'. The realisation is visible in the poor morale of the Afghan forces.

“Unfortunately, the majority of the districts were left to the Taliban without any fight,” said Rahman, a council member in the Badakhshan province. He blamed the Taliban successes on the poor morale of troops, who are also mostly outnumbered and without resupplies.

As the attacks increased, in late June, the Afghan government resurrected militias with a reputation of brutal violence to support the beleaguered Afghan forces but many of the militias in the Badakhshan districts put up only a half-hearted fight, Rahman said.

Hundreds of Afghan Army, police and troops surrendered their outposts and fled to the Badakhshan provincial capital of Faizabad, he added.

What The Future Holds

Taliban ruled Afghanistan, imposing Islamic sharia law, until the US-led invasion in 2001.

Analysts predict that Kabul could fall within six months of US leaving. Talks between Taliban and the Afghan government began last year in September but haven't reached anywhere. Nor can they be expected to since Taliban, now much stronger, has no reason to share power with the Afghan government.

An Afghanistan overrun by the Taliban will most likely reinstate harsh practices that defined its rule, including extreme persecution of the Hindu-Sikh population, and oppression of women.

Currently, Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan number around a 1,000 each. This would constitute a 99 per cent decline in their population in just three decades.

Taliban, like many Islamist groups, has denounced democracy as a western abomination.

In June last year, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban said that the peace process does not mean the Taliban will abandon the path of Jihad.“..they shouldn't expect (the Taliban) to abandon jihad and their military capabilities," he said.

The remarks came after a UN report stated that the Taliban had failed to fulfil a core part of the US-Taliban agreement that it would break ties with Al Qaeda.

The rise of Taliban would not only give an impetus to radical Islamism in the Indian subcontinent, but also constitute a major feat of Pakistan's policy of cross-border terrorism. The Taliban owe the Pakistani establishment for providing them indoctrination, arms, ammunition, supplies, and most importantly, a safe haven — the primary reason why US could never defeat Taliban.

Pakistan was one of the three countries that had recognised the Taliban regime in the 1990s, and the Taliban captured much of the country with the help from Pakistan’s ISI.

As US leaves Afghanistan after two decades of war on terror, the neighbours are preparing for the new normal. India, an avowed supporter of the Afghan government, has also reportedly opened channels of communication with the Taliban, resulting in a meeting between the leaders of the insurgent group and Indian officials in Qatar.

New Delhi’s outreach, however, is limited to the factions and leaders of the Taliban that are believed to be outside Pakistan’s sphere of influence.

Also read: Islamic Countries Of Indian Subcontinent - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan - Where Are Your Hindus?

70 Years After Partition Hindu-Sikh Exodus From Islamic Nations In Indian Subcontinent Continues, But No One Cares

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