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Taliban test Afghan military morale when US leaves

Kabul — Almost every day, the Taliban publish videos of victorious militants visiting yet another Afghan district headquarters that was lost in a battle by government forces or surrendered increasingly without combat.

Some of these districts (the equivalent of US counties) have defended as Afghan troops deprived of important U.S. air support have refocused on the protection of the country’s major densely populated areas. Too far or sparsely populated to justify.

Trained and equipped by the U.S. and Western allies for nearly 20 years, Afghan security forces have approximately 260,000 soldiers and are strong enough to prevent the Taliban from seizing power immediately. must. Withdrawal of US troops It is nearing completion.

Still, the endless series of battlefield retreats in recent weeks has begun to create a sense of necessity for the Taliban takeover. Afghan authorities are aware that self-fulfilling prophecies are at risk of snowballing unless they are reversed immediately.

Already, some districts have surrendered to the Taliban this month as a result of negotiations involving local power brokers and military commanders. In some cases, the Taliban even gave Afghan soldiers and police officers pocket money that had been unpaid for months for a safe return trip.

This sense of crumbled morale is exacerbated by the lack of a clear military strategy in Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani has appointed a new defense minister, veteran commander Bismiller Khan, to replace his predecessor, who had been recovering in Abu Dhabi for several months, only this Saturday. Mr. Gani also appointed new Army Chief of Staff General Wari Ahmazai and new Interior Minister General Abdul Satter Milzakwar to oversee police.

“We will not surrender to terrorists. Mr. Gani, who will meet President Biden at the White House on Friday, said at a Saturday ceremony introducing the new minister.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will meet President Biden at the White House this week.


Photo:

hedayatullah amid / Shutterstock

Such fears of surrender to the Taliban dominated a meeting last week between a young Afghan activist and Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s highest peace negotiator traveling to Washington to meet Mr. Biden. .. A woman in eastern Ghazni talked about how she recently traveled to her hometown through a government checkpoint to find an abandoned outpost and Taliban patrol on her way home. Dr. Abdullah, whose alliance occupies half of the Afghan government under a power-sharing agreement with Mr. Gani, was full of questions about whether there was a secret agreement to hand over the districts to the Taliban one after another.

“I said decisively with a 1,000% guarantee, no, it’s not a plan, but the fact that people think this way gives you the big picture in itself,” Dr. Abdullah said at the meeting. I mentioned it in a later interview. “Perhaps the same thing comes to mind for the soldiers who protect the country. It has its own consequences.”

Fazel Fuzzley, director of the Gani administration, said Intensifying Taliban offensive In the coming weeks, even when militants and the government are pursuing US-sponsored peace talks in Doha, Qatar. He said July-September is likely to be the deadliest month as Pakistan’s Madrasa takes a vacation and sends a wave of new hires to the Taliban.

“Substantial negotiations on peace talks in Doha and elsewhere are not expected within the next five to six months. Both Pakistan and the Taliban want to test. [Afghan security forces] First, and to hold some rationale-added more populous areas and state capitals, “Fuzzley said. “We need to protect ourselves. We may lose some position in certain areas, which is now fully controlled by the Afghan government.”

Afghan soldiers were stationed in an abandoned house in April to oversee the airstrike operation in the Taliban.


Photo:

The Wall Street Journal’s Kiana Haeri

The government announced last week that it would arrest local elders and politicians trying to mediate the surrender transaction between the Taliban and security forces. However, such warnings seem to have little effect on the ground. In the northern province of Takar, where seven of the 16 districts have recently fallen into the Taliban, local elders mediated the surrender of the Baharak district on Friday.

The Taliban executed the district chief of the National Security Agency, an intelligence agency in Afghanistan, but allowed 78 soldiers to leave as long as they abandoned their weapons, said Sarahhudin Borhani, a member of the Takar state legislature. It was. The video released by the Taliban left behind American-supplied humvees, dozens of assault rifles, and three heavy machine guns. In other recently captured Afghan districts, abandoned weapons included mortars and at least one howitzer. Overall, nearly one-tenth of Afghanistan’s 387 district has fallen into the Taliban since early May.

“Why is the government, which is unable to support its soldiers and puts the district under Taliban control, arresting the elders who live there?” Borhani said. He added that the Baharak soldiers fought for three days and surrendered only after they realized that they were starting to run out of ammunition and no help was coming. “If the government is unable to support troops in the air or on the ground, the rest of the soldiers will see this and be demoralized. They understand that without backup, the consequences of the battle would be fatal.”

In northern Faryab, about 24 members of Afghanistan’s highly trained commando were killed in the Taliban ambush last week, an event that sent shockwaves across the country. As of Sunday night, the Taliban were on the verge of entering the state capital of Maymana. “The situation is dire,” said Rahmatullah Turkestani, who heads the Association of Political Activists in Maimana. “It is clear that the government cannot fight without the support of the United States and NATO.”

Afghan security officials checked the car at a checkpoint in Kandahar on June 8.


Photo:

m sadiq / Shutterstock

Indeed, the Afghan government has regained some of the lost districts. And at this stage of the war, the Taliban often do not try to keep these bases long. “The Taliban have taken control of the district, blown up buildings and captured prisoners, but they aren’t there to provide governance. For them, it’s more of a public relations activity than preserving geography.” Said Tamim Assy, a former Deputy Minister of Defense of Afghanistan, who heads the Institute for War and Peace in Kabul.

As far as the Afghan government is concerned, success by the end of the combat season will prevent the Taliban from owning any of the country’s 33 state capitals, Fuzzley said. He added that the turning point was the so-called “Jalalabad moment.” This was a reference to the Mujahideen raid in eastern Afghanistan in 1989, eventually resulting in a major rebel rout, proving that Afghan government forces could survive. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet-established President Mohammad Najibullah (recently ubiquitous portraits on Kabul signs and car hoods) collapsed three years later, it wasn’t because of military defeat, but because of internal destruction. Ramatura Nabil pointed out that there was. He led the NDS espionage agency until 2015. He warned that the current Afghan government is facing similar problems.

“Currently, politicians are split, and that’s why military aircraft are losing momentum,” Navir said. “The Taliban do not push directly to take over. First, they work to collapse from the inside, and they have already made some friends among our politicians. They Is approaching almost everyone. “

America’s longest war

More WSJ coverage of the US War in Afghanistan, selected by the editors.

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com

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Taliban test Afghan military morale when US leaves

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