By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, Jun 1 (EFE).- With exactly a month on Tuesday since foreign forces started the final phase of their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban has been gaining ground in the war-torn country with the government unable to recover lost territory despite repeated promises.
On May 1, the United States and NATO started pulling out following an announcement by US President Joe Biden that they would withdraw all troops by Sep. 11, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that led to the invasion of Afghanistan.
Since then, the Afghan government has lost at least five districts and tens of security check posts to the Taliban in the absence of air support from foreign forces, sometimes deemed crucial to boost the morale of the ground troops and repel the Taliban attacks.
Hundreds of security forces have been forced to surrender or abandon their checkposts, with the militants capturing their armored vehicles, weapons and other equipment, as confirmed by several sources.
Each time the government has promised to recapture lost territory, but the counter-attacks have apparently not been very successful so far.
“Afghan security forces have some achievements in eastern Laghman province against the Taliban, but they have recaptured no territory in central Maidan Wardak, northern Baghlan and southwestern Helmand provinces,” Hashim Alokozai, Defense Committee chief of the Upper House of the Parliament, told EFE.
Alokozai attributed the failures to a “weak leadership” among the ranks of the security forces, mismanagement and corruption, resulting in “demoralization” of ground troops.
He revealed that the security bodies fail to provide their troops with timely supply of food and weapons in insecure areas, evacuate injured personnel, or even pay salaries on time.
Moreover, the troops often do not even have a scheduled rotation of shifts. “In some cases, soldiers eat only boiled rice or beans for days.”
“The security forces abandoned or handed over a lot of security check posts, armored vehicles and weapons to the Taliban even without fighting or resistance,” Alokozai underlined.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told EFE around 1,300 security forces and officials have surrendered over the last one month, a large number of them through mediation of local tribal elders sent by the insurgents.
“We asked the security forces to surrender or abandon their posts while guaranteeing they would not be hurt by the Taliban after that,” a tribal elder from Laghman province, who mediated the surrender of at least five checkposts, told EFE on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, as Taliban armed attacks increased to a record high in May, the officials claimed that the militants have suffered a high number of casualties.
According to defense ministry figures, at least 3,991 Taliban fighters were killed and another 2,141 were injured in counterattacks by the security forces in the last one month.
At least 248 civilians were also killed and 527 injured in Taliban attacks across the country during this time, as per the records of the Interior Ministry.
The government, however, did not reveal the number of casualties among the Afghan security forces.
Meanwhile, there are apprehensions of the violence spiraling further in the coming months as the Taliban aim for a final, decisive victory to gain control of the entire country.
Taliban attacks “could increase, because they think they can win the war, but we are also ready to respond to their attacks,” a senior government official, who asked not to be named, told EFE.
However, the Taliban spokesperson claimed they have no plans to “intensify the war,” and their actions were only “defensive attacks” in response to an increase in operations by government forces.