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US general says Taliban appear to have ‘strategic momentum’

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(Last Updated On: July 22, 2021)

The Taliban appear to have “strategic momentum” in the fight for control of Afghanistan as they put increasing pressure on key cities, setting the stage for a decisive period in coming weeks, the top U.S. military officer General Mark Milley said Wednesday.

“This is going to be a test now of the will and leadership of the Afghan people — the Afghan security forces and the government of Afghanistan,” Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon press conference.

The Pentagon says the U.S. withdrawal is 95% finished and will be completed by August 31. AP reported that while the Biden administration has vowed to continue financial assistance and logistical support for Afghan forces after August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the focus of U.S. military efforts there will be countering terrorist threats, not the Taliban.

Speaking alongside Milley, Austin said the U.S. will “keep an eye on” al-Qaeda, whose use of Afghanistan as a haven for planning the 9/11 attacks on the United States was the reason U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001, AP reported.

“Our major focus going forward is to make sure that violence, terrorism, cannot be exported from Afghanistan to our homeland, and so we’ll maintain the capability to be able to not only observe that but also address that if it does emerge,” Austin said, adding that the Taliban pledged in 2020 to not provide a sanctuary for al-Qaeda in the future.

“We expect for them to meet that commitment. If they want legitimacy going forward, I think that’s something they’ll have to consider. That’s one way to earn it, so we’ll see what happens.” He reiterated his view that there is a “medium risk” of al-Qaeda regaining within about two years of the U.S. departure the capability to launch attacks against the West.

“But, again, there are a number of things that could happen to speed that up a bit or slow it down,” he added.

Milley said the Taliban now control about half of the 419 district centers in Afghanistan, and while they have yet to capture any of the country’s 34 provincial capitals, they are pressuring about half of them. As the Taliban seize more territory, the Afghan security forces are consolidating their positions to protect key population centers, including Kabul, he said.

“A significant amount of territory has been seized over the course of six, eight, 10 months by the Taliban, so momentum appears to be — strategic momentum appears to be — sort of with the Taliban,” Milley said.

Milley said that while the Taliban are attempting to create the impression that their victory over the U.S.-backed Kabul government is inevitable, he believes the Afghan military and police have the training and equipment to prevail. He said he would not rule out a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, nor would he exclude “a complete Taliban takeover.”

“I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said. 

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ANDSF to launch offensives in north to retake fallen districts

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are expected to start offensives in Balkh province and across the country to retake fallen districts and areas, said Bismillah Mohammadi, acting minister of defense on Tuesday during a trip to Balkh.

According to Mohammadi, if the Taliban think they can win militarily, they are wrong.

“Hopefully we will witness our offensives across Afghanistan and we will recapture areas one after another,” said Mohammadi.

He also praised ANDSF for their achievements in Balkh, Samangan and Herat provinces.

“It is our obligation to defend the country until our last breath. We assure people that yesterday Kaldar was recaptured and earlier one district in Herat was recaptured,” said Mohammadi.

The acting minister of defense said that people, especially youths, stand by the ANDSF to defend the country.

“When I assessed the situation in Mazar, I saw that most people who stand by ANDSF were youths. Not only in the north but in all Afghanistan, uprising forces were established to defend people,” added Mohammadi.

During his visit to Balkh, Mohammadi also met Afghan army soldiers.

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Well known Afghan comedian gunned down in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

A well-known local comedian, Nazar Mohammad, who was known as Khasha Jawan, was gunned down on Tuesday, allegedly by the Taliban, in Kandahar, sparking widespread condemnation.

According to sources, Khasha Jawan was assaulted by the militants before being killed.

He was allegedly then dragged out of his house, with his hands tied behind his back and his body dumped in the Dand district of Kandahar.

A video doing its rounds on social media shows the militants assaulting Khasha Jawan before killing him.

Vice President Amrullah Saleh wrote on his Facebook page that Khasha Jawan was executed by the Taliban in a “kangaroo court.”

“Footage of the moments before the execution of Khasha Jawan Kandahari in a kangaroo court shows that the Taliban does not abide by Sharia; they have no court, no law, and no humanity,” Saleh said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture and Information stated that Khasha Jawan sent out strong messages through “art and allegory” to the people.

Waheed Omer, Director General at the Office of Public and Strategic Affairs of the Afghan government, stated: “Footage of Taliban killing a bound local comedian in Kandahar is a drop [in the ocean compared to] the massacre campaign that the Taliban has waged across Afghanistan.”

“Please don’t look the other way. Raise your voice on whatever stage that you have access to. These savages are after rooting our people out,” Omer tweeted.

The Taliban, however, stated that Nazar Mohammad was a member of the Afghan security forces.

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Taliban negotiating team member’s son killed in clashes in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

Anas Haqqani, a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, confirmed Tuesday that the son of Mohammad Nabi Omari, a member of the Taliban leadership and negotiating team, was killed in a battle with government forces.

In a tweet, Haqqani confirmed the killing of Omari. But he did not give any further details.

The Afghan government also confirmed that Abdul Haq Omari, who was the deputy chief of the Taliban military wing in Paktia province, was killed in a clash with Special Forces.

Meanwhile, Shaheen 209th Military Corps claims that a Pakistani army officer Javed was killed by NDS forces.

According to the Corps, he was a serving Pakistani army officer and was leading the Taliban in Logar, Paktia, and Paktika provinces and was killed on Tuesday morning in an operation by NDS 01 unit.

The Corps also said that a commander of tactical training and head of the Taliban Red Unit in Faryab province, along with seven of his fighters was killed.

“Qari Hayatullah, known as Osama, the head of the Taliban’s red unit and commander of the Taliban’s tactical and terrorist training for Faryab province, was killed Monday afternoon in a joint operation by defense and security forces in the village of Deh Azizan in the Sabz area of Pashtun Kot district,” read the statement.

During the operation nine other members of the group were wounded, the Corps added.

The Taliban has not commented yet.

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