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The US pullout from Afghanistan is moving according to plan, while the Taliban are capturing district after district.
On June 21st, Taliban fighters took control of a key district in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, encircling the capital of the same name.
Fighting around the Imam Sahib district began late on June 20th and by midday the next day, the Taliban had overrun the district headquarters and were in control of the police headquarters.
Imam Sahib is strategically located near Afghanistan’s northern border with Tajikistan, a key supply route from Central Asia.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed confirmed that the Imam Sahib district was in Taliban hands.
Dozens of districts have fallen to the Taliban since May 1, when U.S. and NATO troops began their final departure from Afghanistan.
The Taliban have taken several regions across the three northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan and Balkh.
Significantly, witnesses said the Doshi district in Baghlan province was in Taliban hands.
This means the Taliban have assumed control of the one road that links five northern provinces to the capital Kabul.
Government forces later claimed the recapture of the Doshi area, but the Taliban is still active in the district, capturing more areas and seizing more military equipment in bases left by national forces.
Similarly, to the Imam Sahib district in northern Kunduz, the significance of the captured districts often lies in their proximity to roads and major cities.
The Maywand district in Kandahar province fell to the Taliban after a tunnel bombing targeting the main Afghanistan Armed Forces base in the area.
The Taliban have circulated videos on their website and to WhatsApp groups in which they claim show government soldiers who have surrendered being promised to return to their homes and receiving money from the Taliban.
On June 20th, Taliban leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhunzada issued a statement ordering his soldiers to “treat those who surrender well and display good behavior with them.”
The Afghan Armed Forces, in response, continue their operations, but they have had limited success, despite reports of heavy casualties on the Taliban side.
147 Taliban militants were killed and 53 others were wounded as a result of Afghan Army operations in Nangarhar, Laghman, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Zabul, Faryab, Balkh, Helmand, Nimruz and Kunduz provinces just on June 20, according to the Afghan Defense Ministry.
Instead of gains in these provinces, the Afghan Armed Forces are losing ground.
US President Joe Biden will meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani soon, the White House said.
Biden’s talks with Ghani will be their first face-to-face meeting.
The US leader is set to pledge diplomatic, economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan to prevent it from becoming a haven for militants.
Meanwhile, Turkey is attempting to implement itself into the solution in Afghanistan, and assume control of Kabul International Airport, how it will potentially fare against the Taliban remains a mystery.
Any significant success is mostly unexpected.