The Wall Street Journal warns Afghanistan the government could fall in six months after U.S. withdrawal. Judith Miller reacts.
The U.S. military’s top commander in Afghanistan stated that security throughout the country was deteriorating only weeks before the withdrawal of American forces.
In a rare briefing Tuesday, Gen. Scott Miller stated that the recent gains of the Taliban were highly concerning, even though they are not surprising.
“The security situation right now is not good,” he said to a small number of reporters at Kabul’s fast-emptying coalition headquarters. If the current trajectory continues, civil war is certain to continue. This should concern the entire world.
Since President Biden’s April announcement, that all U.S. troops would be gone by Sept. 11, nearly 25% of Afghanistan’s districts fell to the Taliban in recent weeks, the Islamist movement has gained momentum. The Taliban have taken control of nearly a quarter of Afghanistan’s districts in recent weeks. This is because the Islamist movement gained momentum following President Biden’s April announcement that all U.S. troops would be gone by September 11.
Due to operational security reasons, Gen. Miller refused to provide a time frame for American forces to leave. The U.S. military already has drawn out more than half of its equipment and personnel and is expected to complete the pullout by mid-July, officials have said.
The Taliban’s advance has been stopped by the Afghan National Security Forces, which have been funded over many years by millions of dollars in American aid. In many cases, Afghan troops surrendered peacefully, leaving behind U.S.-provided Humvees as well as weapons for the Taliban.
The Wall Street Journal reported that a recent U.S. intelligence analysis concluded that Afghanistan’s government could be overthrown within six months from the U.S. military’s departure.
Gen. Miller, who has commanded all American forces in Afghanistan since September 2018 and previously headed U.S. special operations in the country, reiterated that only a political solution will end the war in Afghanistan. He cautioned, “If you don’t reduce the violence that becomes more difficult to achieve a political solution.”
Officials from the U.S. and Afghanistan said that Afghan security forces have retaken some districts in recent days. Mohammad Afzal Hadid, the Balkh provincial council chief, said part of Kaldar district, which shares a border with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, was retaken by Afghan security forces on Tuesday. Regular Afghan forces, along with militias loyal the Atta Mohammad Noor former governor of Balkh were responsible for the offensive.
According to Mr. Hadid the Afghan forces control Kaldar’s police station and district governor headquarters. He stated that “fighting is currently underway right now to clear this district.”
Kaldar fell three days ago to the Taliban, and Afghan forces deployed there fled across Amu Darya river from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan.
Maj. Gen. Khanullah Shuja was named the new commander of 209th Shaheen Corps located in Mazar-e-Sharif. His command said that it expects to start taking back other strategically valuable districts from Taliban within the next few days.
Over the years, U.S. military advisors have advised the Afghan government that it should focus its efforts on fighting Taliban in strategic districts around major cities and highways. This would leave less strategic districts in rural areas open to the Taliban. Now that resources are decreasing in Afghanistan, the importance of this recommendation is even greater. The country’s new defense minister, Gen. Bismillah Khan, has begun to execute that strategy, Gen. Miller said.
Biden stated unambiguously that only a unit designated to protect the U.S. Embassy at Kabul will remain in Afghanistan. Gen. Miller indicated that the unit will be commanded by a junior commander than a four star general.
Officials have indicated that the unit could eventually include several hundred military personnel. They will provide security for the embassy staff and maintain a limited advisory capacity. The U.S. mission to Afghanistan’s military will come to an abrupt halt. Instead, billions of dollars will be spent on American assistance. Officials suggested that Afghan forces might receive such assistance abroad, even via remote training.
The security of Kabul’s international air terminal is vital for the American presence at its embassy. In principle, the Turkish government has agreed to keep hundreds of troops at the airport as well as run its flight operations in exchange for financial support from the United States and other conditions. The deal is not yet final and could be canceled. If this happens, major airlines would have to stop flying to Kabul.
Gen. Miller is the longest serving U.S. commander after the American invasion in Afghanistan in 2001. On Tuesday, he was asked about the U.S. legacy in Afghanistan and whether U.S. foreign policy had been a failure.
Gen. Miller responded, “The future will write the legacy,” “As we move forward, the future will tell the rest of the story.”
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