WASHINGTON (AP) – The Taliban appear to have “strategic momentum” in the fight for control of Afghanistan as they exert increasing pressure on key cities, setting the stage for a decisive period in the weeks to come so that US forces complete their withdrawal, the top US military officer said on Wednesday.
“This is now going to be a test of the will and leadership of the Afghan people – the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a conference press release at the Pentagon.
The Pentagon has said the US withdrawal is 95% complete and will be complete by Aug.31. And while the Biden administration has pledged to continue financial aid and logistical support to Afghan forces after August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the goal of US military efforts there will be against terrorist threats, not against the Taliban.
Speaking alongside Milley, Austin said the United States would “keep an eye on” al-Qaida, the extremist network whose use of Afghanistan as a safe haven to plan the September 11 attacks on the United States. United was the reason American forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
“Our main goal in the future is to make sure that violence, terrorism, cannot be exported from Afghanistan to our homeland, and therefore we will maintain the capacity to be able not only to observe this, but also to remedy it. it is happening, “Austin said, adding that the Taliban made a commitment in 2020 to no longer provide sanctuary for al-Qaida in the future.
“We expect them to keep this commitment. If they want legitimacy in the future, I think that’s something they will have to consider. That’s one way to win it, so we’ll see what happens. He reiterated his view that there is a “medium risk” that Al-Qaida will regain within about two years of the US leaving the capacity to launch attacks against the West.
“But, again, there are a number of things that could happen to speed up or slow this down a bit,” he added.
Milley said the Taliban now controls about half of the 419 district centers in Afghanistan, and although they have yet to capture any of the country’s 34 provincial capitals, they are putting pressure on about half of them. As the Taliban seize more territory, Afghan security forces are consolidating their positions to protect major population centers, including Kabul, he said.
“A significant amount of territory has been seized in the last six, eight or ten months by the Taliban, so the momentum seems to be – the strategic momentum seems to be – sort of with the Taliban,” Milley said.
Milley said that although the Taliban try to create the impression that their victory over the US-backed government in Kabul is inevitable, he believes the Afghan army and police have the training and equipment to do so. ‘to take with. He said he would not rule out a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, or “a complete takeover by the Taliban.”
“I don’t think the end of the game is written yet,” he said.