The Taliban conquered Afghanistan’s seventh provincial capital in five days, extending the encirclement of government pockets in the country. The United States, for its part, has warned that a military victory will isolate the fundamentalist Islamic group.
The ball of choice on Tuesday (10) was Farah, capital of the province of the same name near the border with Iran, an important point to increase the siege of Herat – an important city north of it.
“They captured the goernador’s office and the police headquarters,” Shahla Abubar, a member of the local council, told Agence France Presse. Other organizations, such as the Qatari Al Jazeera network, have confirmed the information.
The advance of the Taliban, 20 years after being ousted from power by the American invasion in retaliation for the shelter that the group had offered to the al-Qaeda network during the attacks of September 11, 2001, has been dizzying.
Notably because it was negotiating a peace treaty that was finally signed with the United States last October, the group had moderated its actions and limited them to interior areas. Since last Sunday, it launched a major offensive against urban centers.
The reason was the withdrawal of the United States and its Western allies from the country, decided in April and which has already reached 95% of the troops, and is expected to end on the 31st. President Joe Biden has maintained the arrangement made by Donald Trump and warned that the Afghans must look after their destiny.
Indeed, he delivered the country to the Taliban. Since Friday, Zaranj, Sheberghan, Sar-e-Pul, Kunduz, Taloqan, Aybak and now Farah have fallen. With the west and north dominated, the most important city in the northwest of the country, Mazar-i-Sharif, is surrounded.
According to the Taliban, there is already fighting in its outskirts. Centers in the south such as Kandahar are under attack, as is Lashkar Gah further west. The European Union estimates that 65% of Afghan territory is already out of government control in Kabul – the country has 34 provinces in total, but many are tiny.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday called on tribal leaders not to change sides and to support the Taliban, as has already been noted on certain points.
These mobile loyalties have always been at the heart of power struggles in Afghanistan since Islamic guerrillas helped oust the Soviets in 1989, when the country entered a period of civil war.
In 1996, supported by Pakistan, the Taliban came to power and instituted a medieval regime of extreme violence against women and minorities. It only fell because it housed Osama bin Laden and his terrorists, but it never ceased to exist.
The advance of the Taliban leaves the group in a position of strength. In its agreement with the United States, it should theoretically be included in a national government, but everything indicates that this may not be necessary.
On Wednesday (11), the United States, Russia, China and Pakistan will meet in Doha (Qatar) to discuss the issue. Upon arriving in the emirate, US Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said the Taliban would become an international pariah if they seized power by force.
That’s a relative fact, as separate talks between the group and China highlighted two weeks ago. The Chinese are interested in maintaining stability at their borders and the investments they intend to make to economically swallow up their neighbors, as they are doing in Pakistan.
Pakistanis occupy a central place, because of their ties to the Taliban, in the conversations. The Afghan government complains about this support and has asked rival India of Pakistan to help it use its air force in attacks against the Taliban.
The request was ignored, as New Delhi does not want military involvement in the Afghan quagmire, but shows new political dynamics. The Indians have several investments in Afghanistan, but for now they have closed their consulates and asked their citizens to leave the country.
The Taliban’s treatment of Hindu and Sikh minorities during the time of their rule weighs heavily on collective memory, compared by many to what the Nazis gave to Jews before the Holocaust, but Narendra Modi’s government directly involved seems to be some distance away.
The US intervention cost an estimated 170,000 lives, the overwhelming majority of Afghans, and $ 2.6 trillion in Washington’s coffers. Politically, since the execution of bin Laden by American commandos in Pakistan in 2011, it is largely indefensible.
At the same time, fear of the return of the Taliban is widespread, which in its 2021 version has more developed contacts with extremist organizations than two decades ago – despite being the host of Bin Laden, even due to Saudi Arabia’s role in the resistance against Moscow, the group’s goal was territorial.
Now, Ghani points out, its elements would be more radicalized. “People are rightly concerned that the Taliban takeover will erase the human rights gains of the past two decades,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
As all this unfolds, Russia is conducting military exercises in Tajikistan with forces from the country and Uzbekistan near the Afghan border to signal the Taliban not to bring civil war to its strategic flank in Central Asia. .