The Taliban Shut In on Afghan Cities, Pushing the Nation to the Brink

Although the Taliban’s tactics differ from region to region, the results are usually the same: increased taxes on highways, declining morale among Afghan security forces with dwindling US support, and growing fear among those living in once safe areas.

The aim of the Taliban is to force the Afghan government to respect its peace terms. In Qatar, the Taliban leaders have called for the release of around 7,000 more prisoners and the formation of a transitional government, two applications that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has so far rejected.

“The Taliban seem to believe that using this pressure and orchestrating their fighters to potentially attack Kandahar and other urban centers will pressurize the US to withdraw or otherwise,” Watkins said. “The strategic logic could have the opposite effect.”

In order to prepare for a possible multi-stage attack should the United States stay beyond the May 1 deadline, the Pentagon has requested additional military options – including an increase in US troops or a promise of more air support from US Central Command , which oversees operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, said two US officials. Whether these applications will be approved depends on the next step by the Biden government, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks once a review of the current deal with the Taliban is concluded.

The unrest has already delayed the handover of Kandahar Airfield, a sprawling American base east of the capital, to the Afghan armed forces in recent months. According to a US military official, a small detachment of US and NATO troops remains for the time being to support the fighting Afghan forces.

With the police largely ruined, the Afghan army and commandos moved to Kandahar and began operations in November to recapture the area that was then recaptured by the Taliban. Command officers said their forces had been exhausted from frequent orders for their police colleagues to fill out.

In the nearby Arghandab district, the site of the Taliban’s northern offensive in the city of Kandahar, army leaders and police officers say they are severely understaffed and their request for assistance has not been heeded by officials in Kabul.

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