Afghanistan’s presidential palace in Kabul was attacked by missiles on Tuesday while President Ashraf Ghani participated in prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha.
The assault came when the rising Taliban tightened their grip on the country with the United States preparing to close its military mission in Afghanistan by the end of next month.
The Islamist group has already captured areas of territory and taken control of major border posts, depriving Kabul of a crucial source of revenue and leaving it almost solely dependent on foreign aid.
The Taliban flag was raised last week alongside that of Pakistan at the Spin Boldak border crossing in Kandahar province, one of seven international border crossings that Islamist insurgents say they have taken since June.
The loss of Spin Boldak and Torghundi, a border crossing with Turkmenistan in the northeastern province of Herat in Afghanistan, is a severe setback for the besieged Ghanaian government as it struggles to get the Taliban back into negotiations. of peace blocked.
“This is a very comprehensive strategy that we have never seen before by the Taliban to besiege cities, cut off roads and close crossing points of international borders,” said Ahmed Rashid, author of books on Afghanistan. Pakistan and the Taliban. “What keeps the Taliban united now is the prospect of capturing Kabul, not the prospect of having a peace agreement with Kabul.”
Despite a concerted push by the United States and its allies, talks in Doha between Kabul and the Taliban over the weekend ended without a ceasefire agreement, highlighting the Taliban’s indifference to a political agreement while winning. slanciu.
The escalation of violence has sparked an exodus of people fleeing rural areas under Taliban control where repressive rules have been put in place. The insurgents have also disrupted vital infrastructure in the cities at a time when the country is facing a food crisis when it settles down from its second drought in four years.
Asfandyar Mir, a South Asian analyst at Stanford University, said the Taliban “are looking for the government to become unviable and get a hot return.”
“Some political leaders do not see a way to reverse or even prevent the military slide towards the Taliban. They are ready to bend the knee,” he said.
Ghani and his vice president Amrullah Saleh have publicly lashed out at Pakistan, which would have given the Taliban leadership. sanctuary within its borders and is desperate to secure its strategic interests in the region as protection against rival Irca.
At a regional conference in Uzbekistan last week, Ghani said Islamabad had sent “10,000 jihadi fighters” across the border last month. Located just meters from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Afghan president said Islamabad had failed to get the Taliban to take peace talks “seriously”. Khan said Ghani’s statements were “extremely unfair”, adding: “Peace in Afghanistan is our first priority.”
Ghani withdrew Afghan envoy to Pakistan after the ambassador’s daughter was abducted for a short time and “severely tortured” over the weekend.
Pakistani officials say Afghanistan is trying to deflect blame for its security failures. A senior government official said: “The Taliban is advancing with the offensive after the offensive because of the sudden departure of American troops from Afghanistan. This has nothing to do with Pakistan.”
The question is whether Afghan security forces have the strength and international support to retake lost districts and cross them in the absence of U.S. forces.
David Mansfield, an Afghanistan analyst who consults for the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think-tank, said picking up border passengers “is a way to not go after cities and hold the ransom of Kabul. Why do you lose soldiers taking cities when you can create this financial crisis? “
The acquisition of the borders will also force neighboring countries, including Iran and Turkmenistan, to engage with the Taliban, analysts say, giving them more legitimacy as they test their ability to govern.
Strategy is a gamble. By introducing trade, the Taliban could anger its own followers who rely on the flow of goods between countries to earn a living.
“It’s a question of who flashes first,” Mansfield said. “It’s risky, but the border points are critical.” That’s another way to strangle cities. ”