As the Taliban has brought almost the entire northern Afghanistan under its control it is estimated that they will take just three months to capture Kabul, the capital city. According to an analysis by US intelligence, the Taliban could be able to isolate Kabul in the next 30 days, and may be able to take it over in 90 days.
A US defence official talking to Reuters citing US intelligence sources said that the new assessment of how long the Taliban will take to capture Kabul is a result of the rapid gains the Taliban has made in the recent weeks even as the US-led foreign forces prepare their final withdrawal from the country. However, the official added that it is not a forgone conclusion, as the Afghan security forces could be able to push back the Taliban by putting up more resistance.
The Islamist groups now control around two-thirds of Afghanistan, and already control or about to control 11 provincial capitals. As the Taliban capture more areas, imposing Islamic Sharia law and executing opponents, civilians from those areas are rushing to the capital. However, this has created the risk of Taliban fighters also entering the city disguised as escaping civilians.
On Wednesday, the Taliban captured three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan, including a local army headquarter. Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces to the northeast and Farah province to the west were the latest to fall to the Taliban. The Taliban also captured the local army headquarters located in Kunduz, along with the airport. Incidentally, a Mi-35 attack helicopter gifted by India to the Afghan forces, parked at the airport, also came under the control of the Taliban after it captured the Kunduz airport.
Although it is known whether they will be able to use the Helicopter or not as it is missing some parts, the Taliban is using the M-16 rifles, Humvees and Ford pickup trucks looted from Afghan forces, donated by the Americans.
While the Taliban has not directly threatened Kabul till now, given the rapid speed at which it is capturing provincial capitals, it raises questions on how long the Afghan forces can keep them away from the capital. While the US forces are leaving the country, they are conducting some airstrikes using the B-52 bombers and attack helicopters, but they have refrained from getting involved in ground combat.
While the Afghan forces continue to shed ground to the Taliban on the frontiers of the country, President Ashraf Ghani has launched an effort to stop them with the help of the Afghan warlords. The president has rushed to Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province seeking help from the warlords. He is meeting strongman Atta Mohammad Noor and warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum to discuss the defence of the city, even as it is surrounded by Taliban controlled territories. The fall of Mazar-i-Sharif will mean that entire northern Afghanistan will be under the control of the Taliban.
Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum’s forces had played a significant role in defeating the Taliban from the region and toppling the Taliban govt in 2001, in alliance with the US forces. Dostum was appointed as the first vice president of Afghanistan in the Ashraf Ghani government from 2014 to 2020. He said on Wednesday that the Taliban won’t be able to leave north, expressing confidence that they will be able to stop the advance of the Mujaheddins.
In the meanwhile, US president Joe Biden has reiterated that US forces will withdraw from the country despite the advances made by the Taliban. He said that he does not regret the decision to leave the country after two decades of war. The US president said that they are assisting the Afghan forces by air support, money and equipment, but added that “they’ve got to fight for themselves.”
Moreover, the US-mediated peace talk between the Taliban and the Afghan govt in Doha is also on the verge of collapse, as the Taliban has refused a ceasefire. While the Taliban has agreed not to attack the foreign forces, they have refused a ceasefire with the Afghan forces.
The threat of Taliban capturing Kabul has become a major concern as it will mean the Islamic Sharia law in the country, which means restrictions on citizens, especially on women, attack of free speech and media, and its brutal tactics of enforcing its dictates. It will also become a major concern for India, as Pakistan supported Taliban gaining power in Afghanistan will mean more support to terror groups operating in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. It is notable that Kabul is less than 1000 km away from New Delhi, which will mean an Islamist Taliban govt just in the vicinity of the Indian capital.