The rebels continue their unstoppable advance, reaching the center of the second city of the country, Mazar-e-Sharif, and surrounding the capital
The announcement of a televised message from Ashraf Ghani to the nation yesterday set off alarms about a possible resignation of the Afghan president. Quite the opposite. After the loss of control of 21 of the 34 provincial capitals of the country, the last the strategic Mazar-e-Sharif, and with the Taliban at the gates of Kabul, Ghani went before the cameras to announce that “I have initiated consultations” that “advance rapidly” in the Government, with political leaders, international partners, to find “a political solution that brings peace and stability to the Afghan people.”
Despite the fact that most cities fall with little resistance from the Army and the insurgents have managed to reconquer most of the territory in a week, the country’s top leader was “proud” of his role, although he admitted that “the remobilization of our security and defense forces is our number one priority. The president did not offer how he will achieve the very difficult objective of reuniting local troops to confront the rebels, but said that “serious measures have been taken in this regard.”
Ghani does not resign – in his televised appearance he did not even mention that possibility – but his power barely penetrates the walls of the presidential palace. His words also have no effect on a part of the population in a state of panic, nor on an economy in free fall with skyrocketing prices and the national currency losing value every day against the dollar. Its two most faithful governors were the first to surrender and agree with the Taliban to hand over their provinces in exchange for a safe exit; his Minister of Economy, Jalid Payenda, resigned and left the country; and US President Joe Biden ignores his proposal to demand a ceasefire from the Taliban in exchange for the formation of a transitional government.
He is alone. He must resign, he has no other way out, but it seems that he refuses to acknowledge the reality of the facts, “warns Torhek Farhadi, a former adviser to Hamid Karzai for whom Ghani has become” a polarizing figure. ” Former Economy Minister Omar Zakhilwal took to social media to lament that “thousands of soldiers surrender without fighting because they have decided that Ghani is not worth dying for.”
A new assault
While waiting for the battle for Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s second city and the main commercial point of the north, is the immediate objective of the Taliban who, during the night of Friday and early yesterday morning, launched a major operation that would have managed to reach the urban center. The militias loyal to Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Muhammad Noor, two warlords of the old Northern Alliance, are the only ones in charge of the defense. Few doubt that the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif will be the first step in the fall of a Kabul to which more and more displaced people arrive and from which more and more international people are fleeing, in the case of Denmark’s diplomatic missions, Finland, Norway or Spain.
With a missing Army, the warlords are the Kabul Government’s last resort, but as was seen in Herat at the beginning of the week with Ismael Khan, known as ‘Leon’, they are not capable of great feats without air support. U.S. Khan had to surrender and is now in the hands of the insurgency, a path that Dostum and Noor can follow if they do not choose to flee to Uzbekistan first.
While the Ghani government makes last-ditch efforts to try to save what is already taken for granted, the international community focuses its efforts on removing its compatriots, Afghan collaborators and all foreign citizens from Afghanistan. European governments accelerate evacuation preparations every hour, including the Spanish or German, whose Parliament will possibly authorize tomorrow or Tuesday the dispatch of paratroopers to rescue a hundred compatriots.
Fearful that the Taliban will conquer Kabul almost immediately and isolate the capital from abroad, the White House has also accelerated its operation. Although the arrival of the 3,000 soldiers who will guard the evacuation for today was expected, the Pentagon already sent a first contingent on Friday and yesterday another part of its rescue force landed. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, reported that the soldiers “continue” to arrive, but did not specify the number of professionals already on the ground or if the evacuations had begun.
The US device has the capacity to transport “thousands of people a day,” according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. And they will be needed. As of this week, nearly 4,200 people were still working at the US embassy in Kabul, which the White House has decided to close for security reasons. In addition, the Pentagon estimates that it will have to evict at least another 26,000 people, most of them translators, mechanics, drivers and guides who have collaborated with the United States during the invasion and who will leave with their families to avoid eventual revenge by the Taliban.
The deadline for the complete withdrawal of the Americans is the 31st, but various sources believe that it will be advanced in view of the foreseeable and imminent fall of Kabul. The United States has stationed rapid-action troops in Kuwait in case it should move quickly to Afghanistan if the war situation gets complicated.