Taliban Makes Territorial Advances In Afghanistan

Recently, large-scale fighting in Afghanistan has resumed as the Taliban has made major gains in territorial control. According to NBC News, the Taliban now control roughly a third of Afghanistan, while another 42% of Afghan territory is currently embroiled in a conflict between government forces and Taliban insurgents. In an NBC Interview, an unnamed Taliban commander in the Ghazni province expressed surprise at the Taliban’s latest gains, as they continue to capture rural areas and advance towards Kabul.

The Taliban’s latest advance comes just months away from the U.S. President Joe Biden’s planned ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021; the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. We should indeed be wary of using the term ‘withdrawal’ with regard to the presence of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan. Although Biden has promised to withdraw ground troops from the country, covert operations and indirect forms of warfare (drone strikes, foreign ‘aid’, military/diplomatic ‘advising’) are likely going to be continued by the U.S.

This new round of fighting has already left roughly 5,000 families displaced, with a significant portion of displaced persons seeking refuge in Kabul. Despite the fighting, the same anonymous Taliban commander who spoke to NBC News stated, “We are bound to honor the Doha accord that we signed with the United States in the presence of the international community. We don’t want to capture any province or provincial headquarters anywhere in Afghanistan by September 2021 when the U.S. forces leave our country.”

The Doha Accord refers to the agreement signed between the U.S. and the Taliban under the Trump administration in February 2020, with the U.S. additionally committing to the closure of five military bases and an end to economic sanctions against the Taliban. However, U.S. President Biden extended the withdrawal deadline upon taking office, possibly to gain positive publicity on the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Moreover, it is unclear whether Biden intends to keep the Trump administration’s promises of the closure of military bases and economic sanctions. 

What is clear, however, is that even after 20 years of occupation the Taliban has remained a powerful force in Afghanistan. Therefore, the old adage that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result” seems to be an apt description of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Regardless of the nature of the American ‘withdrawal’ this September, it is also clear that the United States is hesitant at the prospect of withdrawing from the country, as doing so could possibly result in another takeover by Taliban forces and a decline in American influence in the Greater Middle East. However, the alternative of remaining in Afghanistan and seeking to control a foreign nation’s internal affairs is equally unacceptable, as the U.S. would continue to perpetually pour vast amounts of money into maintaining its hegemonic goals in the Middle East.