Afghanistan: Biden Admin Pleads Taliban to ‘Spare’ U.S. Embassy, Russia and China Hold Joint Military Drill
“In just the last 24 hours, the country’s second- and third-largest cities — Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south — have fallen to the insurgents as has the capital of the southern Helmand province…”
As Taliban forces advance on Afghan capital Kabul, President Joe Biden’s administration is pleading with the Islamic terrorist militia to “spare” the U.S. Embassy.
The Biden White House threatened to withhold U.S. aid to the country if the diplomatic mission is attacked. “American negotiators are trying to extract assurances from the Taliban that they will not attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul if the extremist group takes over the country’s government and ever wants to receive foreign aid, three American officials said,” The Times reported.
News reports suggest that the Taliban’s gains come as a big surprise to the Biden White House, and 3,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers are being dispatched to Afghanistan to facilitate an orderly evacuation. “Faced with unexpectedly rapid military gains by the Taliban, the United States decided on Thursday to dramatically scale down its embassy in Kabul and send about 3,000 troops temporarily to aid the evacuation of staff,” Reuters reported on Thursday.
The UK has also undertaken similar measures. “Paratroopers are being rushed back to Kabul to evacuate thousands of British and Afghan citizens as the Taliban tighten their hold on Afghanistan,” The Times of London reported on Friday.
The Taliban forces have encircled Kabul, with key cities and supply routes falling into their hands. Significant victories for the jihadis came on Friday, as they seized Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, and captured the capital of Helmand province. They now control 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.
The Associated Press reported the Islamic terror group’s rapid advance as of Friday:
The Taliban completed their sweep of the country’s south on Friday as they took four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that is gradually encircling Kabul, just weeks before the U.S. is set to officially end its two-decade war.
In just the last 24 hours, the country’s second- and third-largest cities — Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south — have fallen to the insurgents as has the capital of the southern Helmand province, where American, British and NATO forces fought some of the bloodiest battles of the conflict.
The blitz through the Taliban’s southern heartland means the insurgents now hold half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and control more than two-thirds of the country — weeks before the U.S. plans to withdraw its last troops. The Western-backed government in the capital, Kabul, still holds a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
With U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan by next month, China seeks to fill the power vacuum. Beijing has shown willingness to work with the Taliban. “China is preparing to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government,” Politico reported on Friday.
The Taliban is equally eager to embrace its Communist neighbor to the north. Last month, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen described China as a “welcome friend” in a future Mujahideen-governed Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is key to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the multi-billion dollar railway and road network that links the Asian giant to Europe and the Middle East. “China has said it will seek to expand substantially Belt and Road Initiative projects to Afghanistan and deepen the ‘dialogue mechanism’ for the region, in an apparent effort to raise its influence after the US withdraws its troops from the country,” the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported in June.
China is projecting its power in the region by staging a joint military exercise with Russia, the former soviet-era big brother now acting as Beijing’s junior partner.
The drill highlights growing military ties between Beijing and Moscow. “For the first time the two armies used a joint command and control system,” The South China Morning Post reported on Friday.
“About 10,000 troops from China and Russia are carrying out joint military exercises in northwestern China to test some of the People’s Liberation Army’s newest weapons and signal unity on common security concerns such as Afghanistan,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
[Author served as personal assistant to the German ambassador to Uzbekistan during the early years of U.S. deployment in Afghanistan]
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