The Taliban on Friday claimed that it is in control of 85 percent of Afghanistan, including a key border crossing with Iran, following a sweeping offensive launched as US troops pull out of the war-torn nation, AFP reported.
Taliban claim that its fighters had seized the border town of Islam Qala — completing an arc of territory from the Iranian border to the frontier with China, hours after the United States President Joe Biden issued a staunch defence of the US withdrawal.
Biden said the US military mission in Afghanistan would end on August 31 — nearly 20 years after it began — having “achieved” its goals.
“The status quo is not an option,” Biden said of staying in the country. “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan.”
The AFP reported that a delegation of Taliban officials in Moscow said that they controlled some 250 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts — a claim impossible to independently verify and disputed by the government.
Separately, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP the Islam Qala border crossing was “under our full control”, while government officials in Kabul said a fightback was underway.
Biden said the Afghan people alone should determine their future, but he acknowledged the uncertainty about what that would look like.
Asked if a Taliban takeover was inevitable, the president said: “No, it is not.”
But, he admitted, “the likelihood there is going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely”.
The Taliban, for their part, welcomed Biden’s statement.
Meanwhile, Afghan commandos continue to clash with the insurgents this week in a provincial capital for the first time, with thousands of people fleeing Qala-i-Naw in northwest Badghis province.
President Ashraf Ghani said the government could handle the situation, but admitted difficulties lay ahead.
“What we are witnessing is one of the most complicated stages of the transition,” he said in a speech in Kabul.
“Legitimacy is ours; God is with us.”
In Moscow, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said the Taliban controlled about two-thirds of the Afghan-Tajik border as a delegation from the insurgents wound up a visit.
Some “85 percent of Afghanistan’s territory” was under the group’s control, said Taliban negotiator Shahabuddin Delawar.
This week more than 1,000 Afghan troops fled into Tajikistan in the face of a Taliban onslaught.