The Taliban have warned NATO troops who remain in Afghanistan after the September 11 withdrawal deadline will be treated as ‘occupying forces’ as they continue their sweep across the country.
The last US troops are expected to leave within days but reports say that 1,000-strong force could remain on the ground to protect diplomatic missions and Kabul’s airport.
They could be joined by an ‘advisory group’ of British Special Forces soldiers amid fears that the country could ‘implode’ to the Taliban at any moment.
Joe Biden’s symbolic exit date to mark 20 years since 9/11 – which sparked the invasion – has been axed by NATO over fears that the jihadists are rapidly filling the power vacuum left throughout the hinterland and marching ever closer to the cities.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that seizing Kabul was ‘not Taliban policy,’ but warned that no foreign troops should remain in the capital after September 11 because it might force them to ‘react.’
Bagram Airfield, once America’s largest base in Afghanistan, was exited last week, leaving a small force of Afghan National Army soldiers to guard the base around 40 miles north of Kabul
Afghan Commandos arrive to reinforce the security forces in Faizabad the capital of Badakhshan province, after Taliban captured neighborhood districts of Badakhshan over the weekend
On Sunday, the Taliban captured another area of southern Kandahar and announced further gains in Helmand, provinces where the blood of hundreds of US and British troops was spilled over the last two decades
Ex-MI6 chief warns terror threat to Britain posed by al-Qaeda and ISIS will grow if Western allies make ‘enormous mistake’ of turning backs on Afghanistan
The former head of MI6 has warned that the threat to Britain from terror groups including al-Qaeda will grow if NATO powers turn their backs on Afghanistan.
In his first-ever television interview, Sir Alex Younger said it would be an ‘enormous mistake’ to neglect the country and predicted that the most likely outcome for Afghanistan is civil war between a resurgent Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government.
The ex-spy chief revealed that he was ‘very worried’ that Russia could exploit the crisis in Afghanistan to harm Britain and her allies, two decades after the US-led coalition invaded the country following the September 11, 2001 atrocities in New York and Washington DC.
Sir Alex, who retired as chief of the Secret Intelligence Service in September last year, also said every goal set by the international community to rebuild the Afghan state was ‘unrealistic’ goal. And he lashed out at Donald Trump’s decision to set an exit date for US troops rather than use the promise of withdrawal better as leverage over the Taliban regime.
Speaking to Sky News, Sir Alex said the British intervention had put the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda ‘on the back foot’ – but warned that ‘they have the capacity to regenerate’.
Asked what the consequences would be if the West turned its back on the Middle Eastern country, he said: ‘I think if terrorist groups are allowed to regenerate somewhere like Afghanistan, it will lead to more threat on the shores of our country and our allies.
‘We are going to have to think very carefully in the absence of troops on the ground about how we deal with that. It’s vital that we don’t make the mistakes that we made last time around.’
Speaking to the BBC from the group’s Qatar HQ, Shaheen said: ‘If they leave behind their forces against the Doha agreement then in that case it will be the decision of our leadership how we proceed.
‘We would react and the final decision is with our leadership.’
He claimed that the terror group would not target any embassies, diplomats or foreign charity workers.
‘We will not pose any threat to them,’ Shaheen added.
He also heralded the US withdrawal from Bagram airfield last week, once America’s main fortress in Afghanistan, as an ‘historic moment.’
It comes amid concerns from a Tory MP that leaving Afghanistan is ‘a major strategic mistake.’
Tom Tugenhadt, who served in Helmand province, told the BBC on Saturday: ‘What we’re demonstrating very publicly, very clearly, to many different adversaries, and indeed sadly also to allies, is that the US and her allies won’t stay.
‘Now if you don’t have the ability to persist you can forget about influencing others. Nobody will care what you think if you’re not going to be there tomorrow.
‘What you’re doing by withdrawing is you’re encouraging enemies and you’re dissuading allies – that’s dangerous.’
However, British Special Forces will remain in the country with Boris Johnson expected to make a final decision today at a meeting of the National Security Council, according to The Telegraph.
An SAS soldier who recently returned from the country told the paper that its role would be to ‘provide training to Afghan units and deploy with them on the ground as advisers’.
He added: ‘It’s not a pleasant place at the moment, people are scared and rightly so.
‘The Taliban control the countryside and are just waiting for the coalition to leave. They are making it [clear] at every opportunity that their peace is with the coalition and not the Afghan government. The country will implode.’
On Sunday, the Taliban captured another area of southern Kandahar and announced further gains in Helmand, provinces where the blood of hundreds of US and British troops was spilled over the last two decades.
In the north, Afghan forces fled across the border into Tajikistan as the Taliban advanced into several districts.
More than 300 Afghan military personnel crossed from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province as Taliban fighters advanced toward the border, Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security said in a statement. The Afghan troops crossed over at about 6.30pm local time Saturday
The Taliban now control roughly a third of all 421 districts and district centres in Afghanistan.
Afghan soldiers pause on a road at the front line of fighting between Taliban and Security forces, near the city of Badakhshan, on Sunday
Afghans carry the body of civilians killed during fighting between the Taliban and Security forces, during their funeral, in Badakhshan province, northern Afghanistan, Sunday
In this handout photo released by Border Troops of the State Committee for National Security of the Republic of Tajikistan on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, Afghanistan’s government soldiers sit at a bridge next to Tajikistan-Afghanistan border in Tajikistan. 134 servicemen of the government forces of Afghanistan were forced to retreat through of the Panj frontier detachment into the territory of the Republic of Tajikistan on Tuesday, June 22
The gains in northeastern Badakhshan province in recent days have mostly come to the insurgent movement without a fight, said Mohib-ul Rahman, a provincial council member. He blamed Taliban successes on the poor morale of troops who are mostly outnumbered and without resupplies.
‘Unfortunately, the majority of the districts were left to Taliban without any fight,’ said Rahman. In the last three days, 10 districts fell to Taliban, eight without a fight, he said.
Hundreds of Afghan army, police and intelligence troops surrendered their military outposts and fled to the Badakhshan provincial capital of Faizabad, said Rahman.
Afghan Commandos arrive to reinforce the security forces in Faizabad on Sunday
Even as a security meeting was being held early Sunday to plot the strengthening of the perimeter around the capital, some senior provincial officials were leaving Faizabad for the capital Kabul, he said.
In late June the Afghan government resurrected militias with a reputation of brutal violence to support the beleaguered Afghan forces but Rahman said many of the militias in the Badakhshan districts put up only a half-hearted fight.
The areas under Taliban control in the north are increasingly strategic, running along Afghanistan’s border with central Asian states. Last month the religious movement took control of Imam Sahib, a town in Kunduz province opposite Uzbekistan and gained control of a key trade route.
The inroads in Badakhshan are particularly significant as it is the home province of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011. His son, Salahuddin Rabbani, is part of the current High Council for National Reconciliation. The slain former president also led Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e-Islami, which was the party of famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, killed by a suicide bomber two days before the 9/11 attacks in America.
The Interior Ministry issued a statement Saturday saying the defeats were temporary although it was not clear how they would regain control.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the fall of the districts and said most were without a fight. The Taliban in previous surrenders have shown video of Afghan soldiers taking transportation money and returning to their homes.