By taking ground in distant areas in the north, including a border crossing with Tajikistan, the Taliban are forcing the Afghan security forces to make up for scarce resources while trying to stop the insurgents elsewhere in the country, including in provinces near the capital Kabul, he said.
“The Taliban have almost doubled the number of districts they control, conquered important areas and military bases and demoralized parts of the Afghan security forces and the government,” said Roggio.
In the north of the country, the Taliban have brought more than 40 districts under their control since the beginning of May, including an important district in Kunduz province on Monday to encircle the provincial capital.
In a war that was often slow, the situation on the ground has changed daily – sometimes hourly – over the past few weeks. Some Afghan government units have given up their weapons and vehicles without major fighting as local officials reportedly negotiated surrender agreements with the Taliban.
The Taliban’s victories on the battlefield come as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, meet Biden at the White House on Friday. The visit “will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan as the military withdrawal continues,” the White House said.
In an agreement negotiated by the previous government between the Taliban and the United States, Washington committed itself to withdrawing all US troops by last month. Biden decided to withdraw the American forces by September 11th.
The Taliban’s progress has advanced faster than even the uprisings expected.
The Taliban commander, who spoke to NBC News, and the uprising spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group had purposely avoided conquering entire provinces or provincial capitals and said they wanted to honor commitments under the 2020 agreement with the US, which was signed in Doha last year.
“We are committed to upholding the Doha Agreement that we signed with the United States in the presence of the international community. We don’t want to take a province or provincial headquarters anywhere in Afghanistan by September 2021, when U.S. forces leave our country. “Said the Taliban commander.
The Doha Agreement does not prohibit the Taliban from taking control of provinces or cities, but does prohibit them from attacking US forces. The Taliban’s decision not to occupy any cities seems to be aimed not to anger US and NATO troops upon departure.
Some Taliban fighters had recently reached the entrance to Mazar-e-Sharif but had been recalled to their previous positions outside the city, he said.
The commander said that the insurgents in some areas that have already been conquered have to strive to take over government duties because the Taliban cannot keep up with the pace of their own gains.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group would not punish or arrest government soldiers who surrender. . Such an approach would mean a change of tactics for the insurgents who are accused by human rights groups of executing and torturing captured troops.
“We neither lock them up nor do we punish the Afghan security forces who surrender peacefully. We let them go home who lay down their arms and do not fight back,” said the spokesman.
While the Taliban are on the rise, some civilians are fleeing to larger cities that are still controlled by the government.
Somal Nazari and his young family left their village in Faryab province on Sunday as Taliban forces approached the city of Maymana.
“There was heavy gun noise, there was AK-47, and everyone ran away and left their homes,” Nazari told NBC News by phone.
His three children watched, confused and upset, as tanks and other military vehicles drive past their home, he said.
“Everyone was crying,” he said.
Nazari, 30, left everything behind, stuffed a couple of bags with clothes and bought five plane tickets to Mazar-e-Sharif in neighboring Balkh Province. He and other civilians said house prices fell as people tried to dump their assets before a possible Taliban takeover.
After working as an interpreter for foreign journalists and non-profit organizations, he is afraid for his family and has no hope of returning home soon.
“You are very sensitive to people who have worked for foreigners,” Nazari said of the Taliban.
He hopes to apply for asylum abroad, but for the time being does not have the money to move his family to another Afghan city. Meanwhile, the Taliban are approaching Mazar-e-Sharif.
The Biden government announced Thursday that it would evacuate some former interpreters before the 9/11 withdrawal deadline.
The Afghan government troops have tried to evacuate the Taliban from the districts they have captured and have suffered heavy losses. In the northern province of Faryab, Afghan elite special forces – the most capable arm of the Afghan military – tried unsuccessfully last week to evict the Taliban from the Dawlat Abad district. More than 20 Afghan commandos were killed in the battle, according to local media.
Afghan special forces also fought last month to drive the Taliban out of the captured area in Wardak province outside the capital Kabul, but media reports say the insurgents retain control of these areas
The recent Taliban occupation of counties in three provinces – Wardak, Logar and Laghman – that surround Kabul signaled a potentially ominous sign of the government’s resilience. If these provinces fall, “the road to conquering Kabul will be wide open,” said Roggio.
The withdrawal of the Afghan military has sparked a revival of former anti-Soviet anti-Taliban militias, with Afghan President Ghani and other officials hugging the groups and calling for united resistance against the Taliban. The call to arms by local militias seemed to underscore the dangerous position of the Afghan government and carries the risk of rival groups plunging the country back into a larger, anarchic civil war of the kind that raged in the 1990s.
UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the Taliban were ready to capture provincial cities after the withdrawal of US and NATO forces, painting a grim picture. “The possible slide towards worse scenarios is undeniable,” she said.