The advance of the Taliban, which yesterday took control of the three provincial capitals Kunduz, Sar-e-Pul, Taloqan, received a response from the United States. The US bombers, which went alongside the Reaper drones already in action, would have left yesterday from an air base in Qatar and the idea was to use them to hit targets in the areas of Kandahar, Herat and Lashkar Gah. But the American air strikes in Afghanistan in support of the ” allies ” of the Kabul government in an attempt to curb the Taliban advance have been a reality for days: “US forces have conducted several air strikes in defense of our Afghan partners in recent days Major Nicole Ferrara, spokesman for the US central command, told CNN.
The Taliban’s response was not long in coming: today the spokesman for the political office of the insurgents Muhammad Naeem Wardak warned the United States, advising them not to intervene further. And he accused the Kabul government of unleashing the recent fighting, saying there is no deal on the horizon. “The Afghan government is the one that has chosen to start the war in several provinces – said Wardak – The measures that the Taliban have taken have been in response and in reaction to the attacks and actions of the government”.
The militants continue their advance in the country from which in recent weeks the foreign forces led by NATO have left after twenty years of presence, and of war, which had on several occasions – and in different military and political seasons – stemmed also the Taliban presence. Advance in front of which the President of the United States Joe Biden, updated on developments, which he follows closely, “for now does not change the plans for the withdrawal of US troops by the end of the month” as reported by the New York Times. Since Friday, however, the provincial capitals that have fallen into the hands of the Taliban are five in all. Among the latest achievements, the most important at a strategic level is Kunduz, which with its 270,000 inhabitants is considered the gateway to the northern Afghan provinces rich in raw materials and therefore highly sought after. On a logistical level, it is also a sort of crossroads from which connections with important cities depart, even the capital Kabul. In addition, the province which has Kunduz as its capital also has an important border, with Tajikistan. It is one of the most popular routes for the release of opium and heroin from the country, directed to Central Asia, from where it finds its way to Europe. Not to mention the symbolic value of the enterprise: the city in 2001 – at the beginning of the war – represented a stronghold of the Taliban militancy in the north. It was torn from foreign forces several times, in 2015 and 2016, but the Taliban never managed to consolidate and maintain their presence for long. Controlling Kunduz is therefore no small goal or a goal like any other and yesterday could therefore have represented a watershed, and even an accelerator, in an offensive launched in May that proceeded at a constant pace and without finding great obstacles in its way.
The US and the United Kingdom had already warned their citizens still present in Afghanistan or those who intended to go there in recent days: the Foreign Office was the first to suggest to the British to avoid all travel to Afghanistan and, to those who are in the country , to leave it immediately. The same tone is that of the US: “The US embassy invites American citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using the commercial flights available,” the US Embassy in Kabul wrote on Twitter. “Given the security situation and the reduction in staff, the embassy’s ability to assist American citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited, even in the capital.” Now, however, the challenge lies with the government of Kabul: once the foreigners have left, the Afghan forces, with their 350,000 units in the field, must demonstrate that they can regain and maintain control. It was largely predictable that it would be fought, but now the balance of power must be established. Kunduz is a strategic and symbolic objective, but it is not certain that the Taliban will be able to maintain their grip, that they have the real strength. Eyes also focused on the political process, with the Doha talks stalled: what happens on the ground from this point on dictates the law in the balance of power at the negotiating table.