The Taliban seized two more provincial capitals in Afghanistan on Friday, bringing it one step closer to taking the capital city of Kabul.
According to the Long War Journal, the cities of Qalat and Tirinkot fell into the hands of the Islamist insurgents on Friday. The group took Herat and Kandahar, the nation’s second-largest city, on Thursday.
“The regions and provinces that are under the control of the Islamic Emirate are in fact a sign of the popularity and acceptance of the Islamic Emirate among the nation,” the Taliban said in a news release shared by spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. “This is, in fact, the victory of Allah.”
— Zabihullah (..ذبـــــیح الله م ) (@Zabehulah_M33) August 13, 2021
“The Islamic Emirate once again assures all its compatriots that, as always, it protects their lives, property and reputation and creates a safe environment for its beloved nation. No one should worry about this,” the Taliban said.
Data provided by the Long War Journal shows that close to 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 421 districts are under Taliban control. The government in Kabul rules over just 15 percent of the districts, while the rest are contested.
Despite the Taliban offensive, the Biden administration remains committed to getting the U.S. out of the country by Aug. 31.
In its most recent update on Tuesday, the U.S. Central Command said the U.S. military has completed “more than 95% of the entire withdrawal process.”
Kirby called the move a “temporary mission with a narrow focus.”
The U.S. Embassy’s facility manager has directed his staff to destroy “classified documents, electronics, and large items” using a roller, according to an internal memo obtained by Politico. Staff members have also been told to destroy any documents bearing “American flags … which could be misused in propaganda efforts.”
The U.S. has asked the Taliban to spare its embassy in Kabul from attack, according to The New York Times.
On Thursday, U.S. officials sent out an alert to all Americans in Afghanistan, telling them to leave the country immediately.
“The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options. If you cannot afford to purchase an airline ticket at this time, please contact the U.S. Embassy at KabulACS@state.gov for information regarding a repatriation loan,” officials wrote in a statement.
“Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul.”
The Taliban has previously said that it will not harm diplomats and embassies.
“We assure all foreign diplomats, embassies, consulates, humanitarian organizations and investors that they will not face any problems from our side. Rather, we will exert all efforts for their protection and security,” Taliban leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada said in a July statement.
“Their presence is a need of our country that cannot be ignored. Hence, they should continue their work with a peace of mind and not feel a sense of apprehension from the advances and rule of Mujahideen.”
Not everyone seems to believe the Taliban’s assurances. Denmark and Norway announced Friday that they will soon evacuate and close their embassies in Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
U.S. President Joe Biden has previously dismissed comparisons of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to the U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam in 1975.
However, several American lawmakers disagree with Biden.
“The latest news of a further drawdown at our Embassy and a hasty deployment of military forces seem like preparations for the fall of Kabul,” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, according to France24.
“President Biden’s decisions have us hurtling toward an even worse sequel to the humiliating fall of Saigon in 1975.”
Another lawmaker called the situation in Afghanistan “President Biden’s Saigon moment.”
“For months, I have pressed President Biden for a plan to avoid the very situation that is now happening in Afghanistan. Now, American lives are at risk because President Biden still doesn’t have a plan,” Republican House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Mike Rogers said in a Thursday statement.
“Weeks ago, President Biden promised the American people that we would not have a Saigon moment in Afghanistan — Now, we are watching President Biden’s Saigon moment unfold before us.”
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