Taliban fighters seize Aybak, capital of Samangan in north – the sixth Afghan provincial capital to fall in four days.
Germany’s defence minister has rejected calls for its soldiers to return to Afghanistan after Taliban fighters took Kunduz city where German troops were deployed for a decade.
The country had the second-largest military contingent in Afghanistan after the United States, losing more troops in combat in Kunduz than anywhere else since World War II.
The Taliban overran six provincial capitals, including Kunduz, during the last four days as it pressed an offensive since foreign troops began a withdrawal.
“The reports from Kunduz and from all over Afghanistan are bitter and hurt a lot,” Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Twitter on Monday.
“Are society and parliament prepared to send the armed forces into a war and remain there with lots of troops for at least a generation? If we are not, then the joint withdrawal with the partners remains the right decision.”
The German minister said that those now calling for renewed military intervention in Afghanistan must ask themselves what would be the goal and the strategy, as well who would be the partners.
Some within her own conservative party want German troops to participate in an intervention against the Taliban, but Kramp-Karrenbauer said defeating them would require a long and hard campaign.
Since the US announced plans in April to pull out troops by September 11, and the transatlantic alliance NATO followed suit, violence has escalated as the Taliban has seized territory.
‘Trump’s unfortunate deal’
Kramp-Karrenbauer accused former US President Donald Trump of undermining the Afghanistan operation, even though it is his successor Joe Biden implementing the withdrawal policy.
“Trump’s unfortunate deal with the Taliban was the beginning of the end,” she said of an agreement Trump struck with the Taliban in 2020 for US troops to leave.
On Monday, the Taliban seized a sixth Afghan provincial capital following days of blitz across in the north that saw urban centres fall in quick succession, including previously German-defended Kunduz.
Taliban fighters entered Aibak, the capital of Samangan province, without a fight after community elders pleaded with officials to spare the city from more violence following weeks of clashes on the outskirts, Sefatullah Samangani, deputy governor of Samangan province, told the AFP news agency.
“The governor accepted and withdrew all the forces from the city,” Samangani added, saying the Taliban were now in “full control”.
A Taliban spokesman quoted by AFP confirmed the city had been taken.
The fighters took three provincial capitals during the weekend – Zaranj, the capital of the southern province of Nimruz, Sar-e-Pol, the capital of the northern province of the same name, and Taloqan, the capital of northeastern Takhar province.
They had already taken the capitals of Kunduz in the north and Helmand province in the south.
Meanwhile, United Kingdom Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Britain’s Daily Mail that the accord struck last year between the US and the Taliban was a “rotten deal,” echoing criticism of his German counterpart.
Wallace said his government had asked some NATO allies to keep their troops in Afghanistan once the US troops departed, but failed to garner enough support.
“Some said they were keen, but their parliaments weren’t. It became apparent pretty quickly that without the United States as the framework nation it had been, these options were closed off,” Wallace said.
A Taliban spokesman warned Washington on Sunday against intervening following US air raids to support beleaguered Afghan government forces.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Taliban spokesman Muhammad Naeem Wardak warned the US against further intervention to support government forces.
UNICEF in a statement on Monday said 20 children were killed and 130 children had been injured in southern Kandahar province in the last 72 hours.