US forces left their last military base in Afghanistan on Friday, 2nd July 2021 after almost 20 years. They handed it over to the Afghan National and Defense Forces before starting to depart the war zone. Reportedly, the last remaining US troops were around 2500 to 3500. US President Joe Biden announced to retract the troops by September 11 but remained concerned due to the rising threat of Taliban in Afghanistan. Peace talks did not do much good as the extremist group kept on increasing its encroachment on Afghan land. After the US started to pull out, Taliban forces gained further presence by capturing more districts from fleeing Afghani forces. According to reports, around 300 military troops fled to Tajikistan on Saturday, 3rd July after Tajiki authorities allowed them to enter.
US-led NATO alliance invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in response to 9/11 and helped overthrow the Taliban government. After that insurgent activity started to shrink but as the war spanned over two decades, the Taliban’s control increased. Even now nearing the departure, not even the US is sure how strong the Taliban hold has become in the country.
Government Needs Help Against Taliban in Afghanistan
In an attempt to address the fears, the government has rehired the militia to assist its forces against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The development has been seen as an act of failure and desperation as the security forces are unable to fight the Taliban. Both police and military have abandoned several of their bases, outposts, and other centers, so that the newly hired militia can perform better than the official security forces.
This militia involved armed villagers with a violent history of blood and bones. They rallied with automatic rifles shouting words like “death to criminals” and “death to Taliban”. The US and NATO agreed to pay 4 billion USD to support Afghani forces till 2024, even after various audits suggested that aid sent to Afghanistan often became the target of corruption. Afghan military was also critical of US forces regarding the way they left. They complained that the US just sneaked out of the base in the night without informing the patrol. Reports also said that some looters ransacked the camp after the US abandoned it and left it unattended for a couple of hours.
The Biden administration has been searching for another base to keep monitoring extremist groups. It considered Uzbekistan or Tajikistan as options but Russia’s influence in Central Asia prevented that. Talks were also going around regarding Pakistan providing the US with a base but the Taliban has threatened that any country helping the US to operate would face “misfortunes.”
How Much Afghanistan is Still Under Taliban Control?
Taliban in Afghanistan have been busy overrunning several districts, mainly in the north. The region is known for being a traditional stronghold of mujahideen, who helped US forces to topple the Taliban government in 2001. Reportedly, they defeated security forces in each area and gave them money to travel back home. On Tuesday, 6th July Taliban also attacked the central city of Ghazni with explosives, in an attempt to seize control. They overtook most territories without much struggle given the exhausted mental and physical capacity of defensive troops. In the past three days, 10 districts went to the Taliban, and 8 of them without a battle.
Taliban recaptured the Panjwai district in Kandahar, police headquarters, governor’s office, and multiple districts of Badakhshan. Reportedly, the total number of Taliban-controlled districts has become 421 including centers. According to statistics by Tableau, around 49% of Afghanistan is currently under the Taliban and this percentage is increasing by a matter of hours. Similarly, 32% of Afghanistan is contested while 19% is either under the government’s control or undefined. Approximately, 36% of the Afghan population lives in Taliban-controlled areas, and 32% lives in contested areas and government-controlled areas each. The following map provides the visual representation of Afghan regions divided by control.
The condition in Afghanistan seems far from peaceful as more areas are going under the control of Afghanistan. Once most stable parts have now become more violent like the Balkh district. The Taliban have been showing their power with gun-totting men walking around the streets casually thanks to the sorry state of politics in Afghanistan.
Why US Withdrawal Can be Worrisome for Afghanistan’s Future?
With recent territory gains, the Taliban are now also in control of the main Tajikistan border, which is a major trade route as well. They also control the strategic district of Doshi, which contains the only road linking North Afghanistan to Kabul.
The security in the country has continued to deteriorate as the US and State started to lose district after district to the Taliban. There are concerns about the civil war as well as Taliban and Militia are likely to clash in the coming days. It seems like history is about to repeat itself when Russia was occupying the country for 10 years till 1989. Massive civil war erupted and the somewhat same Afghan government deployed militia to fight the Taliban. The civil war strengthened the Taliban, who took charge of the country in 1996.
Experts analyzed that just like before the militia will be loyal to the local warlords in hopes of financial rewards. Their battle tactics are evident from 1990s inter-factional clashes that killed thousands of innocent people. The US aimed to eliminate the Taliban but recently backed out unsuccessfully. Reportedly around 1000 units are left behind to protect the US embassy and international airport. Embassies will remain open but the staff continues to grow worried. Concerned Afghanis criticized the US that it ran away at the time when the Taliban are practically banging at Kabul’s door. Further, the Taliban’s aggression increased every time the US or NATO threatened to prolong the stay