Kabul, Afghanistan (AFP) – Afghanistan’s president on Monday blamed the rapid withdrawal of US troops for exacerbating violence in his country and said his administration would now focus on protecting provincial capitals and key urban areas against the fast-advancing Taliban. .
Ashraf Ghani also urged lawmakers to support the national mobilization campaign against the Taliban amid an intense war between the Taliban and Afghan government forces over the past few months as US and NATO forces complete their withdrawal from the war-torn country.
In his address to parliament, Ghani said the “imported and hasty” peace process – a reference to Washington’s efforts to conduct negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban – “has not only failed to bring peace but has created uncertainty and ambiguity” among Afghans.
The Afghan president arrived by helicopter to attend the extraordinary session of the house, which was called due to the dire conditions on the ground. Ghani landed at the Dar Al-Aman Palace in Kabul and inspected the guard of honor before heading inside.
The Taliban is now trying to take over the provincial capitals after it has already captured large swathes of land and dozens of districts in more rural areas, as well as several major border crossings with neighboring countries.
“The Taliban do not believe in permanent or just peace,” Ghani said, predicting a drastic change on the battlefield “in the next six months” that would push the Taliban back, without going into details.
He claimed that Afghan forces are up to the task and have the “capacity” to defeat the insurgents, but in the past weeks, Afghan forces have struggled against the Taliban’s onslaught, often left without reinforcements and supplies.
Spokesman of the Afghan Armed Forces, General Ajmal Omar Shinwari, told reporters on Sunday that three provinces in southern and western Afghanistan are facing critical security situations. There have been several attacks in southern Kandahar – the birthplace of the Taliban – as well as Helmand and Herat provinces.
The head of Helmand’s provincial council, Attaullah Afghani, said the Taliban are also advancing in the provincial capital, Lashar Gah, and are now in control of the city’s seventh district. On Monday, elite Afghan commando units were sent to Lashar Gah to help defend the city.
He added, “There was relentless fire, air strikes and mortars in densely populated areas. Houses are being bombed, and many people are seriously injured,” said Sarah Leahy, MSF’s Helmand coordinator.
The organization, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement on Monday that life in Lashkar Gah was on hold as residents congregate indoors, afraid to go outside.
“Some of our colleagues are spending the night in hospital because it is safer, but also so they can continue treating patients. It was terrible months ago but now it’s worse,” the organization said.
Faizullah, like many other Afghans, told the Associated Press by phone that he fled Askar Gah with his family and was now tracking the Helmand River to safety. He explained that clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces have intensified, and that “Afghan security forces ran out of supplies and food in the city.”
Back in Kabul, Ghani claimed his government was getting financial and political support from the United States and the international community to turn the tide even as he urged the rebels to join peace talks.
“Either we sit on our knees until we get to the real negotiating table or we break (the Taliban) knees on the battlefield,” Ghani said.