A sense of the inevitability of the battle for Kabul gripped residents of the Afghan capital after the news that the Taliban was only 70 km from the city.
The Islamic fundamentalist group, which commands a crushing lightning war across the country, took over five new provincial capitals on Friday (13).
It came after the acceleration of the withdrawal of American forces who spent two decades in the country, which was due to end on the 31st, but which, in practice, has already taken place.
One of them is little Pul-i-Alam, the closest to the capital so far among 17 conquests in just one week – the offensive began on penultimate Sunday and resistance began to fall on Friday. (6). There are 34 provinces in the country, with those under government control being small.
“My family is from Logar [província da qual a cidade é capital] and warned us around noon [4h30 em Brasília] that all was lost, ”journalist Ali Ahmed, independent producer for Kabuli TV Tolo, said in a message.
He reports that the Kabulites experience a mixture of panic and resignation in advance. Families bought more supplies and water, fearing days of fighting.
“We have nowhere to go and, staying here maybe it is safer. There can always be some kind of agreement not to attack civilians,” he said.
At 41, he was a teenager when the Taliban came to power in 1996 and instituted a caliphate modeled on medieval Islamic regimes. Punishment of women, draconian laws and public executions in the capital’s stadium were the norm.
Ahmed praised the American invasion, which aimed to punish the Taliban for harboring the al-Qaeda network of their ally Osama bin Laden and allowing it to launch the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“The problem was what happened later. Corruption, illegitimate governments. It didn’t work and now we can lose everything that we have built in those 20 years,” he said. He is still looking for ways to bring his family from inside Logar, but there is only one road connecting the province to the capital and the journalist does not have the courage to take it.
He agrees with his diagnosis Salem, an official at the Foreign Ministry. He said the Kabulites consider “a shame” the closure of the embassies announced by Norway, Finland and Denmark on Friday, as well as the evacuation of some staff from the American and British representations.
“We’ll have to stay behind. Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” he said. As he himself recalled in a previous conversation, the slaughter of government officials seen as collaborators by the Taliban in Spin Boldak is a yellow light.
The Taliban offensive reaped an even bigger price, strategically, also on Friday. The town of Lashkar Gah, where the army’s special forces fiercely resisted opponents, surrendered.
This completes the takeover of the vital province of Helmand, in the southwest of the country, which concentrates the poppy fields used to supply opium to heroin producers around the world.
The United States considers 60% of the Taliban’s annual budget, up to $ 1.5 billion, to be funded by drugs, although some analysts believe the figure is exaggerated and put the percentage around 20%.
In any case, the takeover consolidates the conquest of the south-southwest of the country, left for after having controlled most of the north, an area historically more resistant to the Taliban for ethnic reasons.
They are Pashtuns, a majority group in Afghanistan that spreads across the country but is more concentrated in the south, while the northern part is dominated by Tajiks and Uzbeks who speak Dari (Persian).
Ashraf Ghani’s central government now only controls the Kabul-Jalalabad corridor and the important city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which is completely surrounded to the north. Despite having dismissed the rumor that one of the country’s vice-presidents had fled, few believe in his ability to cohesive.
As the siege intensifies, the 3,000 American troops who will carry out the partial evacuation of the embassy in Kabul are expected to begin arriving in the city on Saturday.
According to American newspapers, there will be an effort so that the exit is ordered and does not resemble the relentless flight of diplomats from the country of Saigon in 1975.
The comparison had already been rejected by President Joe Biden in June. “There will be no circumstance in which you will see people being pulled from the roof of the American Embassy,” he said, referring to the classic photo of a precarious ladder leading to a rescue helicopter at the Vietnam.
The US Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, said at the time: “I could be wrong, who knows, you can’t predict the future, but I don’t see Saigon-1975 in Afghanistan. ” The rapid advance of the Taliban will test your conviction.