Saturday 3rd July 2021
Fighting rages in Afghanistan
Violence continues to increase after troops have withdrawn
After the US military left the main Bagram base, there are only a few foreign forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban is apparently also fueling this. Heavy fighting broke out and the government carried out numerous air strikes.
At the same time as the rapid withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, fierce fighting is raging in Afghanistan. As the Afghan Ministry of Defense announced, more than 300 fighters of the radical Islamic Taliban were killed within 24 hours. The Taliban denied this, however. On Friday, the US government announced that the US and its allies had now withdrawn all troops from the main military base in Bagram. The US troop withdrawal should be completed by the end of August.
Numerous Taliban fighters were reportedly killed in air strikes, including a morning attack in southern Helmand province, where insurgents and government troops regularly fight. The Taliban rejected the government’s statements. The number of victims is difficult to verify independently; both sides often give too high numbers.
Observers feared that without US air support, the Afghan armed forces could be significantly weakened in their fight against the Taliban. “In the past few days, the Afghan Air Force has intensified its air strikes against Taliban hideouts and the insurgents have suffered losses,” said Attaullah Afghan, a member of Helmand’s provincial council.
Little prospect of improvement
The violence in Afghanistan has increased sharply in the past few weeks. The peace talks between the radical Islamic Taliban and the Afghan government are not making progress. Observers warn that the security situation in the country could worsen after the complete withdrawal of NATO troops.
Most recently, the Taliban had succeeded in conquering dozen of districts in several offensives, encircling almost all of the country’s larger cities. Today they claim to have occupied seven other districts in the northeastern province of Badakhshan. The top US diplomat in Kabul, Ross Wilson, accused the Taliban of intimidating and threatening Afghans in online networks with “violent propaganda and hate speech”. “Violence and terror cannot create peace,” Wilson wrote on Twitter.
The US wants to complete its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August, as the White House announced on Friday. Biden had originally announced that all US soldiers would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11th – the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the USA in 2001 – at the latest. Recently, however, there has been speculation that the mission could end much faster.
Withdrawal completed by the end of August?
The 4th of July, the independence day of the USA, was even mentioned. When asked whether the troop withdrawal would be completed in the coming days, US President Joe Biden answered “no” on Friday. His spokeswoman Jen Psaki later said, “We expect (the withdrawal) to be completed by the end of August.” The last Bundeswehr soldiers left Afghanistan on Tuesday.
The USA and its NATO allies have now completely withdrawn their soldiers from the main military base in Bagram. The strategically important air force base was the linchpin for the US operation in Afghanistan. At times up to 30,000 soldiers were stationed there.
The withdrawal of troops from Bagram heightened fears that the country could slide into civil war again, as it did after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the 1990s. “I see history repeats itself. The Americans are doing the same thing the Russians did. They leave without ending the war,” said Dawud Hotak from Kabul.
Biden tried to allay the worries on Friday. The US military will hold an additional “capacity” in order to be able to assist the Afghan government if necessary. According to media reports, the Pentagon will keep around 600 US soldiers in Afghanistan to secure the US embassy site in Kabul.