Kabul: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that the Afghan security forces’ first job was to make sure they could slow the Taliban’s momentum before attempting to retake territory, as Afghan forces plan to consolidate forces around strategically important parts of the country.
Reuters reported that Afghanistan’s military is overhauling its war strategy against the Taliban to concentrate forces around the most critical areas like Kabul and other cities, border crossings and vital infrastructure. “They are consolidating their forces around the key population centers,” Austin told reporters during a visit to Alaska.
“In terms of whether or not it will stop the Taliban, I think the first thing to do is to make sure that they can slow the momentum,” Austin said, speaking as the U.S. military is set to end its mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 31, on orders from President Joe Biden. Austin added that he believed the Afghans had the capability and the capacity to make progress, but “we’ll see what happens.”
The politically perilous strategy appears to be a military necessity as over-stretched Afghan troops try to prevent the loss of provincial capitals, which could deeply fracture the country. Taliban insurgents are gaining control of more and more territory, which the Pentagon estimated on Wednesday now extends to over half of half Afghanistan’s district centers. The Taliban are also putting pressure on the outskirts of half of the provincial capitals, trying to isolate them.
The United States has continued to carry out air strikes to support Afghan government forces that have been under pressure from the Taliban as U.S.-led foreign forces carry out the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Biden has promised to provide financial assistance to Afghan forces and to redouble diplomatic efforts to revive stalled peace talks. Biden on Friday authorized up to $100 million from an emergency fund to meet “unexpected urgent” refugee needs stemming from the situation in Afghanistan, including for Afghan special immigration visa applicants. read more
Meanwhile, even the British troops are prepared, as according to reports, an SAS helicopter team will swoop in to rescue British Embassy staff if the Taliban take Kabul. A daring Afghan mission has been finalized and could be executed within weeks. A source revealed, “The Taliban already have cells inside Kabul. Everyone fears helicopters will be forced to land on the embassy roof, rescuing the last members of the staff while the Taliban are at the gates.”
The mission would involve destruction of secret documents and computers, followed by an evacuation of all staff from inside the heavily fortified UK embassy. It is understood that an SAS team would be aided by spies from MI6 and GCHQ – all of them already in Afghanistan.
One source, aware of the developments, said: “There is a feeling among some senior embassy staff it is only a matter of time before the Taliban gains control. It won’t just be the British embassy pulling out – the entire international diplomatic community will go.” While British and other nations’ forces have officially pulled out, it is suggested up to 100 UK troops are still there.
However, our regional partners, Pakistan and China are seeking durable peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, said Pakistan and China have been playing their due role to facilitate peace process of Afghanistan. He reiterated Pakistan always condemned the violence and supported a peaceful solution for the issue of Afghanistan. Peace and stability in Afghanistan is vital for socio-economic development and prosperity, he said. Both sides called on all Afghan stakeholders for ceasefire and to work closely together to achieve a comprehensive, inclusive, and negotiated political settlement.