The Afghan government already admits it cannot control 80 percent of its territory, which fell into the hands of the Taliban and tribal warlords allied with the fundamentalist Islamic group that ruled most of the country from 1996 to 2001.
The estimate, made in Folha by a senior official of the Foreign Ministry in Kabul, exceeds the 65% control of the Taliban suggested by the European Union on Tuesday (10).
The collapse of President Ashraf Ghani’s government has gathered pace since last Sunday, when the Taliban launched the biggest offensive in years following the US withdrawal from the country – where it has remained since the 2001 invasion that overthrew the group.
This Wednesday (11), the Taliban invaded the ninth provincial capital since Friday (6). With the fall of Faizabad, the group consolidates its tactics to attack and control primarily the north of the country.
This has a reason. The base of the Taliban is the Pashtun ethnic group, the majority (40%) among the 37 million Afghans. It extends over the entire territory but is in the minority in the northern regions dominated by the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups.
Although only 9 of the 34 captured capitals, the territories around the others are under Taliban control: so far the group has avoided attacks on urban centers. The final price, Kabul, could fall in as little as 90 days, Reuters said after hearing from a US intelligence official.
During the years in power, the Taliban never succeeded in completely conquering the areas, precisely because of their tribal and bloody loyalties.
It is no coincidence that when the group was attacked for protecting the al-Qaeda network while organizing the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, opponents held 10% of the territory under the name of Northern Alliance.
According to the official, there are still no plans to evacuate the officials in Kabul, but fears that they may be victims of retaliation from the Taliban have already prompted some of them to flee the capital. He says the tension is unbearable, and official optimism does not resonate in government departments.
As the Taliban advance, foreign powers with a foothold in the region gathered in Doha (Qatar) to discuss the situation: representatives from the United States, Russia, China and Pakistan were present.
The US State Department said in a statement that the talks were “painful” and that it was clear the Taliban wanted to seize power militarily. The same was stated by the Afghan envoy to Doha, former Chancellor Abdullah Abdullah, in an interview with Al Jazeera TV.
The biggest sign of this came from Pakistan, a country that spurred the group’s formation in its tribal lawless areas along the Afghan border, with the aim of having an additional ally against rival China in the years. 1990.
The Taliban triumphed in the civil war that ravaged the country in 1992, after confusion over the victory of Islamic rebels over the Soviet Union in 1989 made the government unsustainable.
Also on Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said there was no political solution for his neighbor as long as Ghani was in power. Islamabad denies this, but it is common knowledge that the government has ties to the Taliban.
Ghani’s problem is his illegitimacy in the eyes of many Afghans, not just the Taliban. He was elected in 2014 after America’s main ally in the country, Hamid Karzai, became excessively toxic.
Ghani, an economist who studied in the United States and worked at the World Bank until his return home in 2001, is a technocrat who has no influence on the country’s complex tribal politics. He finished second in the election, behind Abdullah, and reversed the advantage in what many saw as a fraud.
In 2019, his re-election was similarly challenged, and he only managed to take office for an additional five years in March 2020.
For the Taliban, he is only a Western puppet, and the fact that the United States left the country after the deal with Donald Trump’s administration exempts the group from keeping the promise to negotiate enshrined in the deal. of peace from last year.
The Afghan president is doing what he can, supported by an army that remains loyal to him for the moment. On Wednesday, he concluded a visit to the threatened town of Mazar-i-Sharif, the main city in the northwest of the country which is now surrounded by the Taliban.
He tried to convince the tribal chiefs not to join the fundamentalists, even for fear of the return of the brutal practices of his regime, which seems difficult.
The Taliban are also taking action. Its chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, had a secret meeting in Doha with the American envoy, Zalmay Kahalilzad, from which nothing has come out yet.
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Joe Biden’s government will meet its August 31 deadline to end the military presence in the country, even though she agrees the security situation deteriorates. .
Not having been invited to speak in Doha, but present in Kabul for having offered to guarantee the airport of the capital, Turkey has rolled its dice in the crisis. In an interview with CNN Türk, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was ready to negotiate directly with the Taliban.
The question that remains is what would be Ghani’s role in this process. Turks, like the Iranians and Chinese, have various economic interests and investments made during the years of pro-Western rule in Afghanistan.