Afghan president blames swift US withdrawal for Taliban surge, with key cities under threat

Ghani said 'the last 3 months' have been an 'unexpected situation'

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday blamed the United States’ "sudden" decision to withdraw its troops for the rapid collapse of security in the country as Taliban forces close in on three major cities. 

Ghani told the Afghan parliament that "the last three months" have been an "unexpected situation." 

He added, though, that the government had a U.S.-backed security plan to bring the situation under control within six months as peace talks between the government and Taliban negotiators continue to stall, Reuters reported

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. speaks on the second day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. speaks on the second day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

President Biden in April pushed back former President Donald Trump’s deadline for a military withdrawal from May to Sept. 11. The withdrawal began in May, and by early July the situation was rapidly deteriorating: The Pentagon on July 9 detailed "concerning advancement" by the Taliban in the wake of the withdrawal. 

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Two weeks later, the Pentagon said the withdrawal was about 95% finished while admitting the Taliban appeared to have "strategic momentum." 

The Taliban have closed in on key cities as the government continues to withdraw its forces to bolster defenses in the capital. Forces clashed in Herat, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar as the Taliban try to add to their already impressive hold on the country. 

Fighting over the past few days has been particularly intense, according to Fox News sources. Taliban insurgents have killed civilians in different occupied parts of Kandahar, and a few police districts have fallen into Taliban hands. 

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The fundamentalist Islamist militia is thought to have so far captured half of Afghanistan’s territory, including key border crossings with Iran and Pakistan, the BBC reported

Taliban insurgents were reportedly within a few hundred feet of the governor’s office Saturday, but the military pushed them back by nightfall. Sources also tell Fox News that insurgents are targeting the media, and at least one radio channel was taken off the air. 

The U.S. and Afghanistan executed air strikes over the weekend on supposed Taliban positions, with Kabul claiming to have killed dozens of militants. 

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Thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded in the crossfire, hitting the highest number of casualties for the May-to-June period since the U.N. started monitoring data in 2009, The New York Times reported

The U.N. is in fact dealing with numerous "internally displaced person" (IDP). 

Areas that had previously been deemed safe have started to feel the edge of the conflict: Stores in Herat shuttered early, and the city’s airport remained closed to civilian travel for a third day. 

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Residents in Lashkar Gah have fled their homes. 

"We are just waiting for the Taliban to arrive — there is no expectation that the government will be able to protect the city anymore," Mohammadullah Barak, a resident, said.