The advances of the Taliban, who have launched an offensive on many fronts after the departure of US troops, have clashed in recent days with the resistance of the Afghan Army, which has partially stopped them; although it is civilians who are paying the price for the fighting that has caused a growing wave of victims, displaced people and refugees. Afghanistan has entered a phase of chronic insecurity: the Islamist militia has not taken any major cities, although some like Kandahar, in the south, are practically besieged and others like Taloqán, in the north, or Herat, in the west, have suffered attacks in recent days that have intensified this Sunday.
Although it maintains the urban centers for now, the Government does not fully control any major roads – practically the only routes through which goods circulate in a country without infrastructure – and much of the rural areas are dominated by the Taliban or live under the control of the Taliban. threat that they may appear at any time imposing their law. “Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting in recent weeks, many civilians have settled in cities,” explains Andrew Watkins, Afghanistan expert at the International Crisis Group.
“Half the population is in need of emergency humanitarian assistance,” says Patricia Gossman, associate director for Asia at Human Rights Watch. “A third of the country, more than 10 million people, suffer from malnutrition, and half of the children under the age of five are severely malnourished.” “The violence has intensified because the Taliban have launched an offensive that has led them to control about half of the districts of Afghanistan,” continues this expert in the Central Asian country. According to the UN, civilian casualties in the past two months have reached a record high, and if things continue, this year will be the deadliest for civilians since the United Nations began keeping records in 2009.
The UN emergency agency maintains, citing medical sources, that in the city of Kandahar alone there have been more than 700 civilian victims (killed or injured) by violence in the last two weeks. Between July 18 and 24, about 2,000 people were forced to leave their homes in the area. Kandahar, the capital of southern Afghanistan, located in the middle of Pashtun territory, the Afghan ethnic group where the Taliban have the most support, is subject to constant attacks – the airport had to be closed this Sunday due to the impact of several rockets – but his region is already practically under the control of the militia. And what is happening there paints a very dark future for the civilian population.
Human Rights Watch published a report on Friday, based on testimonies collected in the area, in which it notes that the Taliban have detained hundreds of residents in Kandahar districts that they control, whom they accuse of being associated with the government. Some of the detainees have been murdered, among them relatives of provincial government officials and members of the police and army. According to the same report, the Taliban have executed a popular comedian, Nazar Mohammad, known as Khasha Zwan, who posted songs and jokes on TikTok in which he mocked some Islamist militia commanders. Zwan was abducted on July 22 by Taliban fighters from his home, beaten and then shot several times. Part of the beating was spread through social networks, as a clear warning to the population.
“With their lightning attacks they leave the government in a very compromised position. It can also serve them to divide the different groups that make up the Executive ”
Andrew Watkins, Afghanistan Expert at the International Crisis Group
In cities located in areas that they do not control or where they have less support among the population, the strategy is different, according to Andrew Watkins. It’s not so much about trying to control the city, but about hitting as a show of force and then fading away. “They are not going to expose themselves to long urban battles, which usually have a significant cost in combatants and there is also no guarantee that they will succeed,” says Watkins, “but with their lightning attacks they leave the government in a very compromised position. It can also serve them to divide the different groups that make up the Executive ”.
That was what happened on Friday and Saturday in Herat, the third city in the country with 300,000 inhabitants and the capital of the district where the Spanish troops were stationed. Local journalists and humanitarian sources have narrated that on Friday there was a large-scale Taliban attack against the urban center, during which the United Nations base was hit, with the death of a security guard.
Images released on social media by the Taliban themselves showed guerrillas celebrating the takeover of the Karoakh district, which has changed hands several times in recent weeks. At night, different testimonies indicated that shelling had taken place against the Taliban positions and that the fighting with the Afghan special forces was intense. On Saturday morning the situation seemed under control, but at night fighting broke out again. The Taliban objective was not so much to take a city that they would hardly be able to control, but to demonstrate that they can launch an attack practically anywhere in the country. All this has caused a feeling of growing insecurity in the country, to which the curfew has returned.
US President Joe Biden announced that the US withdrawal – except for one checkpoint to protect the Embassy and the airport – will be completed on August 31, shortly before the 20th anniversary of September 11, the attacks in Washington and New York. , with whom this new phase of the war began. But since the departure of the troops from the Bagram base in early June, the US military presence is testimonial and its only support for the Afghan Army is airborne. Most observers are pessimistic and believe that, not only through weapons, but also through pacts with Lords of war locals, the Taliban will continue to advance. The fact that China has entered into direct talks with the military shows that Beijing has already bet on who will win the war. What is also clear is who is going to lose it: Afghan civilians, especially women.