Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has now blamed the country’s fast-deteriorating security situation on a “sudden” decision by the United States of America to withdraw its troops after decades of the conflict.
“We have had an unexpected situation in the last three months,” he told the Afghan Parliament on Monday.
That the country would be further embattled in the absence of US-led Nato forces was generally feared, but as Afghanistan inches towards the day of withdrawal, President Ghani has articulated certain home truths about a volatile country.
He has claimed that the Afghan government had a US-backed security plan to bring the situation under control within six months.
He has also accused the Taliban of keeping up its ties with terrorist groups and of stepping up attacks on women. The Taliban has rejected Ghani’s accusations, and predictably so.
“Declarations of war, accusations and lies cannot prolong the Ghani’s government’s life; his time has run out, God willing,” the movement’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said on Twitter.
Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators started last year in the Qatari capital of Doha, but have not made any substantive progress despite a few rounds.
At a meeting last month in Doha between a high-level Afghan political delegation and the Taliban, the two sides ~ bereft of any representative of the Afghan government ~ made a commitment to speed up the talks. Suffice it to register that the successive Doha rounds have made no headway; the core issue has become still more intractable. President Ghani made his decidedly unusual statement on a day when Taliban fighters pushed deeper into the southern Afghan provincial capital of Lashkargahon and closed in on government buildings, a senior official said, as the insurgents pressed a rapid advance.
Heavy fighting was raging close to the National Directorate of Security, the prison and the police headquarters in the main city in Helmand province, the government official said.
Taliban fighters have moved in on three provincial capitals in the last few days and seized territory nationwide since Washington said it planned a complete withdrawal of troops by September.
Most of their advances have been riveted to rural areas and they have yet to take full control of a major city. An Afghan military commander said the government forces managed to beat back the Taliban later in the day.
On Wednesday afternoon, the level of fighting decreased as the Taliban suffered heavy casualties following air and ground operations. Peace talks have not made any substantive progress despite several rounds in Doha.
So when President Ghani says that “we have had an unexpected situation in the last three months”, the candour is indubitably transmitted from Kabul to Washington. The raging violence has definitely escalated if the Biden administration’s decision to evacuate “at risk Afghans from Afghanistan” is any indication. As America retreats from a mess largely of its own creation, the prospects for Afghanistan and the region look increasingly grim.