Afghanistan’s slip into Taliban hands has now become a free fall, with the latest prediction that Kabul, the capital, will fall within a week. On Saturday, Taliban rebels took control of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, sending Afghan soldiers fleeing as the rebels pushed closer to Kabul and Western countries rushed to evacuate their residents from the capital.
This is the latest conquest for the group who has stormed over the nation in recent weeks after the withdraw of US-led forces. Kabul and Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan are currently the only major cities that are not under Taliban control.
With the conquest of Jalalabad, the Taliban have secured the routes that connect the nation to Pakistan. This conquest happened only hours after Mazar-i-Sharif – the seat of Balkh province and Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city – surrendered virtually without a struggle.
The Taliban now have control of 23 of the 34 provincial capitals. More than a quarter-million people have been displaced as a result of the war, with many seeking refuge in Kabul. According to those who have escaped Taliban-controlled regions, terrorists there are demanding that families hand up unmarried girls and women to become spouses for their soldiers.
People have been forced from their homes, humanitarian needs are growing by the hour, and hospitals are overflowing. Evacuations of foreign citizens and diplomats have begun. “We’re worried, there’s fighting everywhere in Afghanistan. The provinces are falling day after day,” said Ahmad Sakhi, a resident of Kabul, in AP News. “The Taliban ruled here before, and they don’t rule in the people’s interest,” stated another resident, Zaman Khan, to PBS.
On Saturday, US President Joe Biden said that the US will send 5,000 troops to help evacuate civilians and guarantee a safe withdrawal of US military forces. According to a US defense official, the deployment comprised of 1,000 newly authorized troops from the 82nd Airborne Division. Britain announced Thursday that it will send 600 troops to assist its people in leaving Afghanistan, where an estimated 4,000 British citizens are stationed. Canada is also sending special troops to the country to evacuate personnel from the Canadian Embassy in Kabul.
Publicly, US authorities continue to support the Afghan government’s survival. According to a readout, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin talked with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, reminding him that the US is “committed to preserving a strong diplomatic and security relationship” with the Afghan government. The State Department rejected reports that the two diplomats encouraged Ghani to stand down.
As Western forces prepare to depart, it is difficult to emphasize enough the horror of thousands of people being killed, millions becoming refugees, and trillions of dollars in resources being destroyed, only for Afghanistan to be back where it began 20 years ago.