Taliban Speeds Up Offensive Against Afghan Forces Amid Withdrawal Of US Troops
The Afghan military is suffering heavy losses.
In the absence of US support, the fear that the Taliban will quickly overrun cities controlled by the Afghan government is coming true.
Speeding up its offensive against Afghan military amid the withdrawal of US troops from the country, the Taliban managed to enter two provincial capitals on Sunday (20 June) after taking control of dozens of rural districts.
The Afghan military, which has lost tactical support from the US forces in the country, has been pushed back by the insurgent offensive, leading to capture of troops, surrenders and loss of equipment over the last few weeks.
Kunduz, one of the two provincial capitals which the Taliban entered late last week, had fallen to the insurgents in 2015 and 2016. But the Afghan government forces had managed to push back the Taliban and take back control of the city with support from US airstrikes and special forces.
This time, however, the Afghan government forces may not be able to reverse all the territorial gains made by the Taliban.
As the fighting enters a more brutal phase across the country, the Afghan military is suffering heavy losses. In one recent battle, an elite unit of the Afghan military lost over 20 commandos in an attack.
In another case, several hundred Afghan soldiers were either captured or surrendered after they ran out of ammunition. Hundreds of military vehicles and a large cache of weapons was seized by the Taliban.
Fighting has intensified throughout the country over the last few weeks. Tolo News, an Afghan media outlet, has reported fighting in 80 of Afghanistan’s 387 districts. The Taliban has taken control of around a dozen districts, mostly in northern Afghanistan, over the last 24 hours, reports said on 20 June.
The withdrawal of US troops is forcing the Afghan military to consider which bases and outposts to hold or abandon following the American departure.
Without private US contractors, who are leaving Afghanistan with the withdrawal of international forces, Afghan military’s may lose its main edge over the Taliban — air power. Targeted air strikes and close air support has helped in tipping the scales in the favour of Afghan forces in some critical battles.
Experts say the Afghan Air Force could be grounded within months when the 18,000 contractors, who are due to depart within weeks, leave the country.
In the absence of US support, the fear that the Taliban will quickly overrun cities controlled by the government is coming true, fuelling the perception of inevitability of a Taliban takeover of Kabul nearly 20 years after it was driven out.
In a clear sign of panic amid a deteriorating security situation, the Afghan government has appointed a new acting minister of defense and army chief.
The US has vowed to keep up US financial support of Afghan forces. The budget request submitted to Congress by the Biden administration last month “fully funds contracted logistics support for the Afghan aviation fleet so the Afghan government can maintain its advantage in the air.”
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani will meet US President Joe Biden at the White House on 26 June. Ghani’s US visit comes at a time when the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan has reached nearly the halfway point.
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