Days after The Washington Post, in an editorial about President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan policy, editorialized that “tragedy appears to be unfolding more quickly than even many of the pessimists imagined,” Taliban troops cemented their hold on the deteriorating nation.
The Taliban on Thursday seized an Afghan border crossing with Iran, according to The Associated Press, which cited reports it received from an Afghan official and Iranian media.
The seizure was the fifth border crossing to fall under Taliban control in the past week, Reuters reported. Borders with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan are now controlled by the Taliban.
According to Reuters, a battle for a sixth border crossing, with Uzbekistan, is underway.
The Taliban victories have led nations such as Turkey and Russia to pull out diplomats.
The string of Taliban successes means that roughly a third of Afghanistan is now under Taliban control.
Biden announced the pullout in April. As U.S. and NATO forces have begun packing up, the Taliban has begun taking control.
On Tuesday, U.S. Central Command said 90 percent of the U.S. withdrawal is complete, according to the AP.
Biden on Thursday said the withdrawal will be completed by the end of August and that “the United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan,” according to an official White House transcript of his comments.
Biden said a Taliban takeover of the country is not a given.
“The Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable,” he said.
“I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war.”
Biden also said the collapse of the Afghan government is not a foregone conclusion.
“The Afghan government and leadership has to come together. They clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place. The question is: Will they generate the kind of cohesion to do it? It’s not a question of whether they have the capacity. They have the capacity. They have the forces. They have the equipment. The question is: Will they do it?” he said.
Biden rejected comparisons to the U.S. departure from South Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War.
“The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable,” he said.
“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
One commentator said the Biden administration refuses to face the facts.
“Alternate reality is the best way to put it. They don’t want to admit that the decision President Biden made has put the Afghan government on the path to collapse, and it’s happening in a time frame they didn’t expect,” said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, according to The Washington Times.
Biden, he said, “hoped to get a decent interval … maybe the Afghan government and the Taliban, they’re fighting, but maybe there’s a slow burn. If the government collapses in a year or two, everyone can shrug their shoulders. But what’s happening now directly pins the blame on the Biden administration, assuming the Afghan government does collapse.”
“They’re spinning Afghanistan and trying to tell us that what we can all see happening isn’t happening,” Roggio told The Times. “That’s the bottom line.”
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