The Taliban make significant territorial gains in Afghanistan

Taliban in Afghanistan
The Taliban have reportedly gained more territory in the past two months than any point since they lost power in 2001. Source: Al Jazeera English (via Flickr)
The Taliban have made gains in Afghanistan, having captured more territory in the past two months than any point since they lost power in 2001.  

By Ella Lloyd | Political Editor

The BBC Afghan Service say that the insurgent group have a strong presence in north, north east, and central regions, and are making progress in other areas.

The city of Zaranj in the south west fell to the Taliban on Friday, as did Sheberghan in the north of Afghanistan on Saturday morning. Other cities in danger, include Herat, Kandahar, and Lashkar Gah in the Helmand Province, where much of the British Military was based.  

In April both the USA and its NATO allies announced they would withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11th this year. This declaration followed a peace deal in Doha in 2018 where the USA committed to withdrawal. The Taliban committed to preventing attacks on US forces, not allowing Al-Qaeda to operate in its territory, and continuing with national peace talks. However, when the US announced its withdrawal, there were warnings that this could lead to increased fighting between the Afghan Government and the Taliban – these fears may be proven correct.  

The conflict has long been worsening. A record 1600 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of this year, mainly by the Taliban or other insurgent groups. On the 3rd of August, the UN reported that at least 40 civilians had been killed in Lashkar Gah in the previous day 

In the northern province of Jawzjan, the Taliban say they have captured a prison and freed its inmates. They are also reported to be controlling the border at Spin Boldak, a major crossing to Pakistan.  

The Taliban have also been targeting government ministers. Dawa Khan Menapal, the Director of the Government’s Media and Information Centre, was assassinated in the capital of Kabul just days after the Defence Minister’s home was attacked. According to the Taliban, Menapal had been “punished for his deeds.” 

The Afghan military report that dozens of insurgents have been killed in Lashkar Gah – A claim that the Taliban refutes. 

Breakdown: The War in Afghanistan

The USA invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following 9/11, with the aim of finding Osama bin Laden and toppling Al Qaeda. However, this aim quickly gave way to a longer-term goal of counter-insurgency, and building a secure and peaceful Afghan state. 

The country had been in conflict for many years prior to the US invasion, fighting the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s and Civil War throughout the 1990s. Progress was made for a few years until there was reborn insurgency from the Taliban in the South of the country. NATO forces were sent to the south to counter this, including the British to Helmand province.

After years of fighting, little had been done to change the underlying power dynamics, however there were wins for western intervention, including improving the quality of life for women and girls in the country.  

Geographically, Afghanistan is a strategic position. Conflict there is often described as proxy war. Many Afghans see the Kabul government as a tool of foreign intervention. 

There are fears for women in the country should the Taliban retake control. In the 90s, when they were in power, the Taliban banned women’s education.

In April, BBC Journalists visited a school where young girls were in attendance on a visit chaperoned by the Taliban. However, there are reports that older girls are not being allowed to attend in Taliban controlled areas.

Some Guardian reports suggest that restrictions for women in areas recently gained by the Taliban are already enforced. Flyers distributed demand women wear burqas. In the Ghor province, women have protested in the streets in defiance of the Taliban, taking up arms and chanting anti-Taliban slogans 

This year, 360,000 Afghans have been internally displaced, at least half of those children. The UNHCR warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in July this year, compounded by the threat of drought. 

Deborah Lyons, the UN’s special envoy for Afghanistan, said the war has entered a “newer, deadlier, more destructive phase”, and the UN Security Council met on Friday to discuss the situation in the region. Ghulam Isaczai, Afghanistan’s envoy, said ‘“It is our collective responsibility to stop them [the Taliban] from destroying Afghanistan and threatening the world community,” 

The UK Government has advised all its citizens to leave Afghanistan. At the UN Security Council meeting, its ambassador stated that they “will not recognize a Taliban government which comes to power by force”. 

The European Union have called for “an urgent, comprehensive and permanent ceasefire”.   

As part of a Newsnight interview, the Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy asserted that the UK needed to learn from its intervention in Afghanistan: “you cannot have a military solution alone to what is essentially a political problem.” 

The US’s Ned Price, spokesperson for the Department of State, stated that Taliban leaders claims that they support a negotiated solution to the Afghanistan conflict “ring hollow now”.  

Ella Lloyd Politics

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