Afghan Ambassador to Washington Slams Biden. Why?

Published August 12th, 2021 - 06:53 GMT
Biden suggested a political solution for afghanistan
Taliban fighter (C) is seen surrounded by locals at Pul-e-Khumri on August 11, 2021 after Taliban captured Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province about 200 kms north of Kabul. (Photo by AFP)
Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan's capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90

Afghanistan's Ambassador to the US has denounced President Biden for suggesting there's a 'political solution' to the onslaught of violent Taliban fighters amid fears Kabul could fall to them within 30 days.

Responding to Defense Department Press Secretary John Kirby's claim that it was no longer feasible for the US to offer air support to Afghan forces, Adela Raz said: 'But it is feasible because you did that. You did that post-9/11 and it you took control of the entire country in 2 weeks.' 

She highlighted how there has never been an example of a government making peace with a terrorist group, and warned the US not to assume that political negotiations with the Taliban would yield positive results.

Alluding to her desire for continued military support, Raz said: 'We have to be also cautions that should not put all our eggs in one basket.'

She said that her own family members are currently joining the fight against the Taliban, adding: 'I'm assuming that there would be a political solution. We have to prepare for the possibility. What if that is no political solution? I'm not for war. I grew up in war. I lost my relatives. I don't want it.

'I think for every Afghan it's difficult we don't advocate for war. But there is a time we need to defend the country and ourselves.' 

Raz also asked that the United States and its allies reimpose travel bans on Taliban leaders and other sanctions in comments to News Nation amid U.S. frustration at Afghan forces' inability to fight-off the extremist group. 

Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan's capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90, a U.S. defense official said citing intelligence reports as the resurgent militants made more advances across the country.

The Taliban, who ruled the country from 1996 until U.S. forces invaded after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, captured three more provincial capitals on Wednesday - giving them effective control of about two-thirds of the country.

The insurgents have no air force and are outnumbered by U.S.-trained Afghan defense forces, but they have captured territory with stunning speed. The Taliban wants to defeat the U.S-backed government and reimpose strict Islamic law.

'If I talk about the fall of Kabul, then I'm shattering my hopes,' Raz told News Nation.

Military officials watching the deteriorating situation said that, so far, the Taliban hasn't taken steps to threaten Kabul. But it isn't clear if the Taliban will wait until it has gained control of the bulk of the country before attempting to seize the capital. 

Raz said the 'quick' withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has 'created consequences' in her country. The U.S. is set to complete the withdrawal of ground troops by the end of the month, formally ending its role in the war. 

The level of remaining air support is 'extremely limited,' Raz said as she called for the United States to once again increase its air support. As Commander-in-Chief, President Biden could continue to provide air support to the country.

Defense Department Press Secretary John Kirby told the outlet that providing air support will not always be 'feasible' but that the U.S. 'will continue to support them with air strikes.'

Kirby told reports on Wednesday that the Afghans still have time to save themselves from final defeat.

'No potential outcome has to be inevitable, including the fall of Kabul,' Kirby said. 

'It doesn't have to be that way. It really depends on what kind of political and military leadership the Afghans can muster to turn this around.'

He added: 'The Afghan forces have the capability, they have the capacity, they have numerical advantage, they have an air force. It's really going to come down to the leadership and the will to use those capabilities.'

Raz hit back at Kirby's comments - claiming that continued air strikes remain feasible because the U.S. effectively used the strategy when taking control of the country in just two weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month that the only method to attain 'lasting peace' in Afghanistan would be political - while President Biden said this week the country has to 'fight for themselves.'

The failure of Afghan security forces to blunt the advance of the Taliban has left U.S. officials deeply frustrated after spending billions to train and equip the country's military for two decades.

Biden and other officials have repeatedly called for Afghan leaders to unite and fashion a clear strategy amid mounting worries that the insurgents could besiege Kabul within months.

'We spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces,' Biden said Tuesday. 'Afghan leaders have to come together. They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.' 

Raz shot back in comments to News Nation: 'We have been fighting for ourselves and for the peace and security of the rest of the world. That we are doing, and we will do it to the last minute.'

The ambassador told News Nation that she is hesitant to believe that the country would have a peaceful path forward through political negotiations with the Taliban. 

'I think the start of the negotiation was to come to a political solution. But we have to be also cautious that we should not put all our eggs in one basket,' she said.

'And assuming there would be a political solution, we have to prepare for the possibility: what if there is no political solution?'

Raz told News Nation that Afghanistan faces a humanitarian crisis while the country braces for escalating war. 

'I think for every Afghan, because we don't advocate for war, but there is a time we need to defend ourselves,' Raz said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the attacks by the Taliban were against the spirit of a 2020 agreement.

The Taliban committed to talks on a peace accord that would lead to a 'permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,' Price said on Wednesday. 

'All indications at least suggest the Taliban are instead pursuing a battlefield victory,' he said. 'Attacking provincial capitals and targeting civilians is inconsistent with the spirit of the agreement.' 

Afghan government forces are collapsing even faster than U.S. military leaders thought possible just a few months ago when Biden ordered the withdrawal. 

Biden has made clear he has no intention of reversing the decision and U.S. military leaders are not pushing him to change his mind. They know that the only significant option would be for the president to restart the war he already decided to end.

Carter Malkasian, who advised U.S. military leaders in Afghanistan and Washington, said it was his 'strong suspicion' that Biden's August 31 deadline for pulling out of the country would hold.

Senior U.S. military officials cautioned Biden that a full withdrawal could lead to a Taliban takeover, but he decided in April that continuing the war was a waste.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in early May that he foresaw 'some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes' in a worst-case scenario. He held out hope that the government would unify and hold off the Taliban.

Officials said that there has been no decision or order for an evacuation of American diplomatic personnel from Afghanistan. 

But one official said the U.S. should now have serious conversation on if the military should begin to move assets into the region to be ready in case the State Department calls for a sudden evacuation.

The military has long had various planning options for evacuating personnel from Afghanistan - but those would largely be determined by the White House and the State Department. 

Any plan would likely involve identifying U.S. troops, aircraft and other assets that may have to operate from within Afghanistan. American forces might even have to fight their way in to evacuate personnel from Kabul international airport if the Taliban infiltrate the city.

The U.S. also would have to determine who would be evacuated: just American embassy personnel and the U.S. military, or also other embassies, American citizens, and Afghans who worked with the U.S. 

In that last category are former interpreters and those who face retaliation from the Taliban. The U.S. has already started pulling out hundreds of those Afghans who assisted troops during the war.

Officials pointed to the fall of Baghlan Province as a worrisome sign because it provides the Taliban with a base and route to Kabul from the north.

The Islamists now control 65% of Afghanistan and have taken or threaten to take 11 provincial capitals, a senior EU official said on Tuesday. 

Faizabad, in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, on Wednesday became the eighth provincial capital to be seized by the Taliban.

Fighting was extremely intense in Kandahar city, a doctor based in southern Kandahar province said. The city received scores of bodies of Afghan forces and some injured Taliban.

All gateways to Kabul, which lies in a valley surrounded by mountains, were choked with civilians fleeing violence, a Western security source said. It was hard to tell whether Taliban fighters were also getting through, the source said.

'The fear is of suicide bombers entering the diplomatic quarters to scare, attack and ensure everyone leaves at the earliest opportunity,' he said.

The United Nations said more than 1,000 civilians had been killed in the past month. The International Committee of the Red Cross said that, since August 1, some 4,042 wounded people had been treated at 15 health facilities.

The Taliban denied targeting or killing civilians and called for an independent investigation.

The group 'has not targeted any civilians or their homes in any locality, rather the operations have been undertaken with great precision and caution,' spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a statement on Wednesday.

The loss of Faizabad was the latest setback for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, who flew to Mazar-i-Sharif to rally old warlords to the defense of the biggest city in the north as Taliban forces closed in.

Ghani spent years sidelining the warlords as he tried to project the authority of his central government over wayward provinces.

The Taliban advances have raised fears of a return to power of the hardline militants who formed in 1994 from the chaos of civil war.

A new generation of Afghans, who have come of age since 2001, fears the progress made in areas such as women's rights and media freedom will be squandered.

Price said the United States was working to forge an international consensus behind the need for a peace accord. 

The Taliban have captured districts bordering Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan and China, heightening regional security concerns.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said Taliban leaders told him earlier this year that they will not negotiate with the Afghan government as long as Ghani remains president.

Some experts claim that finger-pointing at the government and Afghan forces from U.S. officials is somewhat disingenuous.

Defense specialist Anthony Cordesman said that the 'nation-building' achievements U.S. officials have touted in strengthening the central government and in training a modern army over the past 20 years have been vastly exaggerated.

'The US made far too optimistic claims about the Afghan government´s progress in governance, progress in warfighting and in creating effective Afghan security forces,' he wrote in a new report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Even as the U.S. period neared its end, he said, 'Afghan forces remained dependent on U.S. support for virtually all operations.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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