Taliban claims control of 85% of Afghanistan, including a Pakistani border crossing

After the Taliban announced last week that it controlled 85% of Afghanistan amid a final-stage US withdrawal, the group now says it has captured a strategic border crossing with Pakistan on Wednesday. (July 14).

On Tuesday, an Afghan official said a high-level government delegation, including the head of the country’s reconciliation council, would meet the Taliban in Doha (Qatar) to begin delayed peace talks. long delay between the two sides, AP reported.

Although the Taliban’s claims to control of the territory cannot be verified, this percentage is significantly higher than previous Taliban claims that more than a third of the land’s 421 districts and district centers controlled water.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, tweeted a video showing militants in the southeastern town of Spin Boldak along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Residents of the Pakistani border town of Chaman said they had seen the distinctive white Taliban flag flying over the line and Taliban vehicles running in the area.

However, an Afghan government official from the southern province of Kandahar (which includes Spin Boldak) denied that the Taliban had taken control. The official declined to be named to the AP without giving a reason.

In recent weeks, the Taliban has taken over a series of major Afghan border crossings, including with Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Crossing the border with Iran at Islam Qala in Afghanistan’s western Herat province is particularly lucrative and an important trade route.

Spin Boldak is a vital transport route for all cargo from the southern port city of Karachi in Pakistan to Afghanistan, a landlocked country dependent on the Arabian Sea port.

Many districts of Afghanistan fell to the Taliban without a fight as Afghan forces fled their positions. Reports indicate that Spin Boldak also fell without a fight.

In northern Afghanistan, more than 1,000 Afghan troops fled across the border into northern Tajikistan last week after being attacked by the Taliban. Iran also reported several hundred Afghan troops flooding into Iran.

Capturing key border crossings could provide a significant source of revenue for the Taliban and strengthen the group in future negotiations with the Kabul government.

The rise of the Taliban has also resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom fear life under Taliban rule.

On July 14, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, acknowledged the ongoing chaos. However, he pointed out that the country has suffered from decades of unrest since the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Khalilzad said in a webinar hosted by the Beirut Institute: “The reality is that Afghanistan has been at war for 43 years, not that Afghanistan has been peaceful and now we are retreating and therefore it is. become a battlefield”. “The Taliban has slowly evolved over the last few years while we are still there.”

The Taliban leadership has tried to project a softer image, even saying that once they return to power in Afghanistan, girls can go to school and women will be allowed to work. However, in areas where they have gained control, reports from villagers indicate that women are often still confined to their homes and are only allowed to go out when accompanied by a male relative.

The Taliban are expected to bring their senior leaders to talks in Doha, where the insurgency has long maintained a political office.

Negotiations to end the violence have steadily increased since the US signed an agreement with the insurgent movement last February to withdraw foreign forces from Afghanistan.

There is growing concern about what lies ahead and thousands of Afghans are trying to leave the country. Outgoing US commander General Scott Miller, who formally resigned in a ceremony in Kabul on Monday, warned that increased violence seriously damaged his chances of finding an end to the war. peace to Afghanistan’s decades of war.

Miller also warned of a possible civil war as US allied leaders are organizing their own militias in an effort to stem the Taliban’s rise.

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