US Officials: Kabul to Possibly Collapse in 90 Days
The Taliban seizing their eighth capital has prompted US officials to warn of the premature collapse of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
According to Reuters, a US defense official stated that “Taliban” fighters could isolate Afghanistan's capital in 30 days and possibly undertake it in 90 days.
The official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that the new assessment was a result of the Taliban's rapid gains across the country as US-led foreign forces withdraw.
Three scenarios for Afghanistan's future
According to a US source familiar with intelligence assessments, Afghanistan faces possible outcomes ranging from a quick Taliban takeover, to a protracted battle, or a possible negotiated agreement between the Taliban and the current Afghani government.
"But this is not a foregone conclusion," the official added, detailing that the Afghan security forces could reverse the momentum by boosting resistance.
Furthermore, Reuters reported a Western security source saying that “all gateways to Kabul, which lies in a valley surrounded by mountains, were choked with civilians entering the city and fleeing violence elsewhere, making it hard to tell whether Taliban fighters were also getting through.”
The same source adds, "The fear is of suicide bombers entering the diplomatic quarters to scare, attack, and ensure everyone leaves at the earliest opportunity."
Taliban gaining ground swiftly in Afghanistan
Furthermore, a senior European Union official said, on Tuesday, that "Taliban forces now control more than 65 percent of Afghanistan, and threaten to seize control of 11 provincial capitals."
On Wednesday, the Taliban seized control of Faizabad, the capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan, as the Afghan government struggles to slow the momentum of Taliban attacks.
Taliban’s seizure of the city coincided with Afghani President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Mazar-i-Sharif to rally former militia leaders to the defense of the city as Taliban forces closed in.
On his account, a provincial council member from Badakhshan Jawad Mujadidi said that the Taliban had besieged Faizabad before launching an offensive on Tuesday, adding that “with the fall of Faizabad, the whole of the northeast has come under Taliban control.”
Badakhshan borders Tajikistan, Pakistan, and China.
In the south, government forces were battling Taliban fighters around Kandahar, and thousands of civilians from surrounding areas had sought refuge there, according to a resident.
In response to the Taliban's rapid advances, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani decided to arm civilians, enlisting the help of regional militias "to rise in defense of the government."
US President Joe Biden said Tuesday, "I do not regret my decision" when asked if the Biden administration's withdrawal has changed, taking the Taliban's latest advances into account.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki clarified that President Biden believes that it is "not inevitable" that the Taliban takes over Kabul or the country, saying they need to show political will at this point to push back.
The Taliban pledged not to attack foreign forces as they withdraw but did not agree to a ceasefire with the government. A commitment by the Taliban to talk peace with the government side has come to nothing as “they eye military victory”.
The Taliban were never completely in control of the north during their previous rule between 1996 and 2001, however, they appear intent on securing it before closing in on the capital.
Meanwhile, a senior Taliban leader divulged to Reuters that the head of the movement's Political Office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, met US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha on Tuesday. No details of the meeting have been revealed.