As Provincial Capitals Fall, Taliban Views UN's Sluggish Response As Proof of International Support

Patrick Goodenough | August 8, 2021 | 9:09pm EDT
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Afghan special forces patrol a streets in Herat last week as the Taliban continues its offensives against the provincial capital and other cities across Afghanistan. (Photo by Aref Karimi/AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan special forces patrol a streets in Herat last week as the Taliban continues its offensives against the provincial capital and other cities across Afghanistan. (Photo by Aref Karimi/AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – As provincial capitals in the north and south of Afghanistan continue to fall to the Taliban, the group pointed to the U.N. Security Council’s sluggish response to the fighting as a sign that it is also winning support in the international community.

The northern city of Kunduz in Kunduz province – the seventh most-populous of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces – fell to the Taliban on Sunday, soon after Sar-i-Pul, capital of the northern province of the same name, was seized by the jihadists.

Sheberghan, the capital of Jowzjan province also in the north, fell on Saturday, and according to updates by Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary, government, police and security facilities in Taloqan, capital of Takhar in the north east, had also been abandoned in the face of the advancing Taliban fighters.

On Friday, the Taliban captured Zaranj, capital of the sparsely-populated Nimruz province in the far south-west – the first provincial capital to fall to the group since it escalated its offensive in May as the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces began.

Most Taliban gains since May have been in rural areas, but three other provincial capitals -- Herat, Kandahar, and Lashkar Gah in Helmand province – have seen fierce fighting as the jihadists seek to capture them.

The Afghan Air Force is carrying out airstrikes in support of its troops on the ground, and U.S. forces have also conducted airstrikes in support of Afghan forces – “where and when feasible,” according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, who also stressed that the U.S. “mission in Afghanistan right now is primarily focused on drawing our forces down” by the end of August.

Kandahar and Herat are Afghanistan’s second- and third-largest cities, and Taliban victories there would be hugely significant.

As the fighting continues, the U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan warned the U.N. Security Council on Friday that the situation has moved into “a new, deadlier, and more destructive phase.”

Deborah Lyons urged the international community to take steps “to prevent Afghanistan from descending into a situation of catastrophe so serious that it would have few, if any, parallels this century.”

Addressing the council by video link from Kabul, Lyons said it should demand that the Taliban immediately stop attacking cities, and make clear to the group that a government imposed by force will not gain international recognition.

 

U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, reiterating a point made repeatedly by the State Department in recent months, told the meeting that a military takeover by the Taliban would leave it internationally isolated.

“The Taliban must hear from the international community that we will not accept a military takeover of Afghanistan or a return of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate,” he said. “The Taliban will be isolated and an international pariah if they choose that path, which would most certainly push the country to further violence and destruction.”

The open council meeting then moved to closed consultations, but they ended with no explicit joint statement of condemnation of the Taliban’s actions – an outcome the group pointed to as evidence that it is no longer the outcast it once was.

“The situation has currently evolved and the Islamic Emirate is recognized internationally as the true representative force of the Afghan people,” the Taliban said in a weekend statement.

The group said that its policy of recent years, committing to live peacefully with other countries and not interfering in their internal affairs, had led to others no longer viewing it in “a negative partisan light.”

“A sign of this international trust and political recognition gained by the Islamic Emirate is the latest meeting of the UNSC and it not taking a decisive stance against the Islamic Emirate which the Kabul administration had earnestly hoped for,” it said.

The Islamic Emirate is the name under which the Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until toppled by the U.S. in late 2001. The regime was recognized at the time by only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Afghan women and children who fled fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in Kunar province take shelter in a school on Saturday. (Photo by Noorullah Shirzadad/AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan women and children who fled fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in Kunar province take shelter in a school on Saturday. (Photo by Noorullah Shirzadad/AFP via Getty Images)

During the Security Council meeting, Afghan Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai reported that more than 10,000 foreign terrorists were now in the country fighting alongside the Taliban, including fighters from al-Qaeda and even ISIS-loyal groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

“The link between the Taliban and these transnational terrorist groups is stronger today than at any point in recent times,” he claimed.

The Taliban in its weekend statement dismissed as “fake” Isaczai’s claims about “foreign networks allying with Taliban posing a threat to the region and the wider world.”

In its agreement with the U.S. signed in Doha in February 2020, the Taliban pledged that it would “not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.” 

The Taliban agreed to instruct its members “not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies,” to send “a clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan,” to prevent any group “from threatening the security of the United States and its allies,” prevent them “from recruiting, training, and fundraising,” and refrain from hosting them.
 

See also:
State Dept. Challenged Over Claim That the Taliban Cares About International Legitimacy (Jul. 7, 2021)

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