The Stream

Will the Taliban sweep Afghanistan?

On Wednesday, June 30 at 19:30 GMT:
As the US and Nato prepare to pull out the vast majority of its forces from Afghanistan the Taliban is in the ascendant, a major threat to the central government in Kabul.

Taliban fighters have in recent weeks wrested control of dozens of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 administrative districts, capitalising on the exit of hundreds of US and Nato troops since the final phase of withdrawal began in May. On June 29 the Taliban launched a battle for control of a key highway in the central province of Ghazni. That came just days after its fighters fought government forces for control of the northern city of Kunduz, forcing thousands of civilians to flee. In one of its most significant recent gains, the Taliban on June 22 captured a border crossing with Tajikistan after Afghan government forces abandoned their posts.

The speed with which the Taliban has seized control of swaths of Afghan territory has alarmed the government, led by President Ashraf Ghani. On June 19 the presidency announced the replacement of the country’s defence and interior ministers, as the government tries to stop the Taliban from expanding its control. The government has also in recent days launched a ‘National Mobilisation’ effort that provides civilian volunteers with arms to hopefully repel Taliban attacks – an initiative that some analysts worry will resurrect local militias that Kabul may eventually find difficult to control.

A Taliban spokesperson told Al Jazeera that the group has the “right to react” if the US decides to keep a small number of troops in Afghanistan after September 11, President Joe Biden’s deadline for a full withdrawal. With Taliban forces encircling now provincial capitals and peace talks in Qatar deadlocked, US intelligence analysts have reportedly shortened their estimate on the length of time the central government can survive after US and Nato forces complete their withdrawal.

And while the Taliban says that Afghans who have worked for international forces will not face reprisal as long as they express “remorse”, thousands of former contractors are anxiously waiting to see if they will be granted special visas allowing them and their families a new life abroad in safety. The US government is also preparing to evacuate thousands of people, with President Joe Biden pledging that “those who helped us are not going to be left behind”. On Friday, Biden said “the partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending” as he hosted Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, at the White House.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at the Taliban’s continued march across Afghanistan and what lies ahead for communities facing life under its rule.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Ahmad Shuja Jamal, @AhmadShuja
Head of International Relations, National Security Council

Shukria Barakzai, @ShukryaBarakzai
Women’s rights activist and former member of Afghan parliament

Ali Latifi, @alibomaye